Powerful Cyclone Nivar, packing wind speeds of 120 to 130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph, began its landfall as a very severe cyclonic storm near Puducherry coast late Wednesday night, as heavy rains continued to pound this city and other coastal districts of the state for the second straight day.
The landfall began at around 11 pm when the cyclone lay 40 km east-south-east of Puducherry and 120 km south of Chennai, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its late night bulletin, adding that it will take three hours for the centre of cyclone to cross the coast. The entire process of landfall is expected to be over by 3 am on Thursday.
Besides massive efforts by the governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, two warships – INS Sumitra and INS Jyoti – were on stand-by for assistance in the aftermath of the cyclone, while the Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard also made elaborate arrangements to provide succour to the people after the landfall.
Apart from state disaster response teams, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has pre-positioned 19 teams in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, while over 465 ambulances were kept ready in the state. With the landfall area likely to be around Puducherry, focus is now on the UT and Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, which is prone to cyclones.
Cyclone Nivar also increased its speed from 7 kmph at 5.30 am to 16 kmph at 5.30 pm but it came down to 15 kmph at the time of landing.
Over 1.20 lakh people living in low-lying areas and places vulnerable to flooding were evacuated and lodged in 1,455 relief centres across Tamil Nadu, while 2,000 were moved to such camps in neighbouring Puducherry. Road traffic between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry also came to a halt. Commissioner of Revenue Administration K Phanindra Reddy told DH that 1.21 lakh people across the state have been lodged in 1,455 relief centres.
“We have kept 4,733 relief centres ready across the state that can house nearly 13 lakh people. We are prepared to tackle the cyclone and at this moment we also want people to stay indoors,” he said. Officials said physical distancing is being maintained at all relief centres while Covid-19 testing will be done for people who display symptoms.
The city of Chennai looked like a ghost town on Wednesday as major roads witnessed heavy water-logging due to torrential rains that began early Tuesday. As the city was on the edge, Chennai Traffic Police closed down all major roads in the city and asked people to remain indoors. The Chennai International Airport also suspended its operation for 12 hours – from 7 pm on Wednesday to 7 am on Thursday, while Southern Railway cancelled close to 30 trains.
Tamil Nadu government extended the public holiday to Thursday in 16 districts as it kept ready equipment and personnel to clear the roads as the cyclone is expected to uproot trees.