Cyclone Nivar, which intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, started its landfall 30 km north of Puducherry late on Wednesday night. Thursday has been declared a public holiday for 16 districts in Tamil Nadu and in Puducherry and Karaikal regions and people have been asked to stay indoors till the storm has passed.
As of 11pm, the severe cyclonic storm over southwest Bay of Bengal moved west northwards, intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and lay about 50 km east-southeast of Cuddalore and 40 km east-southeast of Puducherry, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. In its latest bulletin, the IMD said the centre of cyclone will cross the coast near Puducherry within three hours with a wind speed of 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph.
The storm was likely to cross the coast between Karaikal in Puducherry and Mamallapuram, about 60 km from Chennai, "during the midnight of November 25 and early hours of 26 November". With rains drenching the state capital and several other parts of the state, authorities have evacuated over one lakh people and housed them in shelters besides disconnecting power supply in vulnerable areas as a precautionary measure.
Heavy rains lashed Chennai, Chengelpet, Tiruvallur and Cuddalore districts of Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry. Chennai recorded the maximum of 16cm on Wednesday, while Puducherry received 10cm, the IMD said.
The gates of Chembarambakkam reservoir near Chennai were opened for the first time in five years as a precautionary measure, releasing a torrent of surplus water into the Adyar river after its storage was just 20% short of its capacity due to heavy rains ahead of the incoming cyclone. As the surplus waters gushed forth with the opening of shutters, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami inspected the dam premises and reviewed the precautionary measures and the outflow.
PWD officials said 1,000 cusecs was released from the lake initially as the water level stood at 22 feet against the maximum total 24 feet while the storage reached 80 per cent of its capacity. The water release was gradually increased to 9,000 cusecs. Delayed opening of the reservoir in 2015 after very heavy rains was seen as a trigger for the devastating floods that hit the city then, though the government had rejected it.
Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar and officials said over 1.21 lakh people, including children, have been housed in 1,000 relief centres in various districts, including Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Villupuram districts. Food, water and all other essentials including masks to help prevent coronavirus have been made available to them in the relief centres, he said.
As a precautionary measure, electricity distribution was stopped in several regions and especially in areas that have overhead power transmission lines. Civic authorities meanwhile removed banners and hoardings in several districts including Chennai and Vellore expecting squally winds.
Chennai airport authorities said flight operations will remain suspended from 7pm on Wednesday till 7am on Thursday considering the safety aspect of passengers and the severity of the approaching cyclone. Southern Railway said eight trains, including the Danapur - KSR Bengaluru Special, were diverted skipping Chennai and 10 trains including the Chennai Central-Coimbatore Special were cancelled.
The Chennai Metro Rail, which operated minimum services, ended it at 8 pm and usual operations would resume tomorrow depending on the weather. Under the influence of the cyclone, coastal and north interior Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karaikal regions are likely to receive rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy showers at a few places and extremely heavy rains at isolated places, the IMD said.
South coastal Andhra Pradesh is also likely to witness showers at most places today. Rainfall is expected to continue in many places in these regions on Thursday too with heavy rainfall at some places.
Chennai and its suburbs, which received heavy overnight rains, continued to witness intermittent showers coupled with strong winds with low-lying areas getting inundated and water entering houses in such localities. The government said it has nominated IAS official V Arun Roy to oversee relief activities in Chengelpet district.
Civic body officials said stagnant water was pumped out by deploying heavy duty motors and fallen trees were being removed immediately. In Puducherry, Chief Minister V Narayanasamy visited some coastal villages to monitor steps taken to ensure the safety of fishermen community as the government said the administrative machinery is fully geared to meet any exigency.
Prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC have been clamped in Puducherry region from Tuesday night till 6 AM on Thursday to restrict movement of people. Parts of the UT have been experiencing intermittent moderate rains since Tuesday night under the influence of the cyclonic storm.
People living in low lying areas or residing close to the sea shore were being evacuated to safer places or to 200 relief camps set up in Puducherry region with basic amenities, including food.
(With inputs from PTI)