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Highlights: ‘Worst over for Chennai’ as cyclone Vardah moves westwards

Four people were killed in Tamil Nadu on Monday as a tropical storm slammed into India’s southeast coast with monstrous ferocity, uprooting trees and power cables, toppling vehicles and damaging houses besides dumping heavy rain across two states.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2016 01:40 IST
Cyclone Vardah,Chennai cyclone,Heavy rains
Cyclone Vardah made landfall close to the Chennai coast at about 3 pm and barrelled inland, packing windspeed up to 140 kmph but is expected to lose intensity as it moves further inshore.(PTI)

Four people were killed in Tamil Nadu on Monday as a tropical storm slammed into India’s southeastern coast with monstrous ferocity, uprooting trees and power cables, toppling vehicles and damaging houses besides dumping heavy rain across two states.

Cyclone Vardah made landfall close to the Chennai coast at about 3 pm and barrelled inland, packing windspeed up to 140 kmph but is expected to lose intensity as it moves further inshore.

More than 9,000 people were evacuated to safety in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh while educational institutions were shut as the “very severe” cyclonic storm whipped up waves as high as 20 ft.

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Met officials said Cyclone Vardah – which means red rose -- gained speed and intensity on its journey across the Bay of Bengal.

S Balachandran, the director of the Chennai-based Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said the tropical storm will dump “heavy to very heavy rain” in many places of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, including its capital city which was battered by devastating floods in December last year.

Follow the live updates:

11:03 pm: National Disaster Management Authority tweets that cyclone system will weaken into a depression in the next three hours. “Worst over for Chennai,” it said.

10:45pm: PM Narendra Modi tweets his prayers for those suffering from cyclone Vardah, and says the Centre is working towards helping them.

10:20pm: Wind speeds drop, but rain continues.

10:18pm: NDMA tweets out a safety kit advisory for people stuck in cyclone Vardah.

9:45 pm: Chennai airport has suspended operations until 11 pm.

9:30 pm: Cyclone crosses Chennai

The cyclone moved westwards in the past six hours with a speed of 15 kph, crossed north Tamil Nadu coast close to Chennai between 3-5pm on Monday, the IMD informed through a statement.

The severe cyclonic storm is very likely to continue to move westwards, weaken gradually into a cyclonic storm during next three hours and further into deep depression in the next six hours, the statement added.

9:00 pm: Centre cautions Tamil Nadu

The Union ministry of water resources on Monday advised the Tamil Nadu government to maintain strict vigil at lakes in the districts expecting heavy rainfall.

In an advisory to the state government, the ministry said, “In view of the expected heavy to very heavy rainfall... in the districts of Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur, along with very severe cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’... good inflows are likely into the reservoirs of Poondi, Chembarambakkam and other lakes around the Chennai city.”

“As the lakes are not full, the inflows shall increase the levels in the reservoirs considerably. The state government has been advised to maintain strict vigil at all the lakes in case of exceptionally heavy rainfall,” the advisory added.

8:00 pm: Death toll rises to four - Two in Chennai, one in Kancheepuram and one in Nagapattinam.

7:20 pm: Landfall to continue till 8-9 pm

“The western part of the cyclone Vardah has crossed the coast around 10 km north of Chennai,” S Balachandran, director at the regional meteorological centre in Chennai, tells IANS.

“Now the central part is crossing. Then the eastern part of the cyclone will cross. Since the central part is crossing there is calm and the rains have stopped.

“The landfall will continue till 8-9 pm,” he adds.

7:15 pm: Battery-run electric woodcutters are being used by civic workers to clear roads by removing trees which have been uprooted.

7:10pm: SriLankan Airlines has cancelled all Chennai-bound flights till Tuesday.

7:00pm: Milk supply in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts was not affected on Monday and will continue as usual on Tuesday, state run Tamil Nadu Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Ltd says in a statement.

6:30pm: Wind speed will gradually decrease to 60-70 kmph in next 3 hours, says, the national disaster management authority. But they warn not to venture out as rains ‘might’ intensify.

6:10pm: Chennai airport has suspended operations until 9 pm.

5:50pm: Cyclone moves towards west Chennai

5:50pm: Cyclone to pass over Goa

The cyclone will pass through south Goa on Wednesday.

“The cyclone, which hit Tamil Nadu today, will reach Karnataka by tomorrow,” M L Sahu, director of meteorological department’s observatory in Goa, told reporters.

“The cyclone will pass through south of Goa on December 14, due to which the state will witness a rise in the temperature and also light rains for two days starting tomorrow,” the official said.

4:50pm: Don’t park near trees

The director general of police, Chennai city, has issued a statement asking people not to park their vehicles near trees.

4:30pm: Trees uprooted, vehicles damaged

4:25pm: Free food

The Tamil Nadu government has announced that ‘Amma canteens’ will be open throughout Chennai, and free food will be served.

4:15pm: Rains subside, but don’t venture out

Rains subside temporarily in Chennai but expect ‘very heavy’ showers after few hours in the city, warns the national disaster management authority.

“Winds to pick up after current lull period. Everyone to not venture out,” @ndmaindia tweets.

According to NDMA, the landfall process will take two hours. But conditions will remain rough for some time even after that.

4:00 pm: Tamil Nadu revenue department releases a statement confirming that two people have died in the state due to the cyclone. It also mentions other details like number of NDRF teams deployed, food packets supplied, number of huts damaged, roads blocked etc.,

3:50 pm: The Indian Meteorological Department has released the satellite image of Cyclone Vardah making landfall in Chennai at around 3 pm.

3.45 pm: Chennai will receive heavy rains for the next 2-3 hours, intensity will reduce by Monday night, the Indian Meteorological Department says in a statement.

3.40 pm: A ship sent to rescue two fishermen off Kakinada in Andhra pradesh was unable to reach them due to rough weather, says, Haribola, state coast guard deputy inspector general.

3.35 pm: “Complete landfall will take another couple of hours. Conditions will remain severe between Chennai & Nellore,” says, K G Ramesh, Director General of Indian Meteorological Department.

3.30 pm: Tada village in Andhra Pradesh, about 65 km from Chennai, and along the coast of the Pulicat Lake, is also experiencing severe storms and incessant rains. Take a look.

3.23 pm:

Suburban rail network hit

“Suburban rail services hit by rains, suspended till further notice. Some trains reaching and leaving Chennai diverted and cancelled,” says, Anil Saxena, Additional Director General(PR) of Railways.

“Chennai division of southern railway affected, senior officials camping at stations and control room,” Saxena adds.

3.19 pm:

‘Not cool’ tweets National Disaster Management Authority (@ndmaindia) to a Twitter user who posted a video of a Chennai resident playing in the rain.

3.00 pm: Tamil Nadu government says two people have died due to Cyclone Vardah. State principal secretary (revenue department) K Satyagopal said “two people died”, without elaborating, reports PTI.

2.55 pm: “The landfall process of cyclone Vardah has begun,” PTI quotes IMD. M Mohapatra, additional director general (services) said the “eye” of the cyclone is 20 kms off Chennai.

“The wind speed near Chennai 90-100 kmph. Heavy rains and storm surge is expected. The cyclone will cross between 2-5 PM,” Mohapatra said.

Video: Heavy rains bring Chennai to a halt

Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure. About 8,000 people from low lying areas in north Chennai, Pazhaverkadu in Tiruvallur district and villages off Mamallapuram, in Kanchipuram district were safely evacuated to 95 relief shelters, PTI quotes officials.

2.30 pm: The cyclone’s distance from Chennai is now 30 kms, reports NDMA.

2.14 pm: Outer periphery of the cyclone hits coast near Chennai. Vardah’s landfall process started between Chennai and Pulicat, S Balachandran, director of the regional cyclone warning centre told Hindustan Times. The process has started and it will continue for four to five hours, he said.

2.00 pm: Southern Railways officials say electrical overhead lines have been severely impacted by Cyclone Vardah and that they are working to restore them.

1.45 pm: Several parts of Nellore and Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh received very heavy rainfall measuring up to 7 cm and the figure may go up to 21 cm in the next 24 hours.

A storm surge of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Nellore district during the time of landfall, a weather bulletin from Cyclone Warning Centre, Visakhapatnam said.

Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons feared trapped at sea, reports PTI

Read | Vardah headed for landfall: 10 tips to survive a cyclone

1.40 pm: All operations at the Chennai airport suspended till 3 pm today, reports ANI

1.20 pm: Cyclone Vardah is now only 50 kilometres from Chennai, reports NDMA. The expected time of landfall is between 2 and 4 pm on Monday afternoon. “The system is very likely to continue to move westwards and cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, close to Chennai as a severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 100 to 110 km/hour gusting to 120 km/hour by today,” they say in a statement.

Over 9,400 people living along coast in Andhra Pradesh’s SPS Nellore district evacuated to relief camps, reports PTI.

1.10 pm: TV visuals showed uprooted trees in Chennai.

1.00 pm: “Almost there,” tweets navy’s spokesperson. The Tamil Nadu government emphasises that people are to stay indoors and not venture out until further notice.

12.40 pm: The state disaster management authority reports that 7,357 people are evacuated to 54 relief centres safely so far in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Villupuram. Six army columns are ready and one is on standby for rescue and relief operations, the army posted on its official Twitter account.

Read | Cyclone Vardah: Rail and air services affected in Chennai

12.20 pm: The Cuddalore district administration forms 30 teams to keep watch on 49 vulnerable coastal villages. Two Indian Navy ships, Shivalik and Kadamatt, and aircraft, as well as 30 diving teams, are on standby to help move people and deliver aid if need be, a navy spokesman said.

12.10 pm: Cyclone Vardah is now 61 kms east of the coastline, moving westwards. It is expected to make land fall close to Chennai between 2 and 4 pm: Agencies quote the MeT department.

“People are advised to be in safe places and stick to the instructions given by the government,” says S Balachandran to ANI.

The outer periphery of the cyclone has reached Chennai.

11.55 am: The Centre has asked the Tamil Nadu government to monitor the situation in Poondi, Chembarampakkam reservoirs considering the rainfall forecast.

“Good inflows are likely into the reservoirs of Poondi, Chembarampakkam and other lakes around the Chennai city. As the lakes are not full, the inflows shall increase the levels in the reservoirs considerably. State government has been advised to maintain strict vigil,” the water resources ministry said in a statement.

11.45 am: As per calls received by the Chennai corporation, the number of fallen trees reported in the city is 133. The municipal body also reports that 204 areas of the city have reported water stagnation.

11.40 am: Nearly 50 flights have been delayed or diverted and a section of local train services were suspended in Chennai, reports PTI. As the storm intensifies, people living in Ennore and Palaverkadu areas in Chennai’s suburbs have been asked to evacuate by the Tamil Nadu government.

11.30 am: NDMA reports that all precautions have been taken at the nuclear power plant in Kalpakkam. Operations are continuing as normal and the plant is in touch with IMD.

10.30 am: Chennai residents have been posting pictures and videos of the storm on social media.

9.40 am: NDMA reports that the wind speed is currently 50 to 60 km/hour and predicts it to escalate to 100-110 km/hour once it makes landfall. They say the storm surge is likely to be one metre in height.

Operations at Chennai airport have been affected by the strong winds lashing the coastline. All flights have been diverted.

9.30 am: Vardah has not weakened as anticipated and has intensified as a “very severe” cyclone. As of 9.30 am, the cyclone lies centered around 105 kms from Chennai.

9.05 am: The National Disaster Management Authority has posted on its Twitter account that the cyclonic storm is positioned 180 km east-northeast of Chennai and 250 km east-southeast of Nellore. “The system is very likely to move westwards and weaken gradually while moving towards north Tamil Nadu and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coast,” says NDMA.

The NDMA advised fishermen to avoid the sea in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for the next 36 hours, and told residents to stay in safe places.

9.00 am: Reports of two people getting injured after a tree fell over a car near Kotturpuram in Chennai.

8.30 am: Here are the helpline numbers:

8.00 am: Director General of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) RK Pachnanda says that teams are already in place in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

“ We’ve positioned three teams in Chennai, two in Kanchipuram, two in Tiruvallur and one team on its way to Puducherry. We have sufficient standby reserves at Arakkonam. We are in touch with state government authorities and with other agencies such as the IMD,” he says.

7.45 am: MeT director S. Balachandran says the severe cyclonic storm is lying about 180 kilometres east of Chennai.

Read | Roanu, Kyant, Nada and now Vardah: Who names Indian cyclones?

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Dec 12, 2016 08:21 IST