The deep depression over the Bay of Bengal intensified into a cyclone and is likely to cross the coast between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry as a severe storm on Wednesday. The official machinery has been put on high alert in Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring union territory of Puducherry and extensive precautionary measures, including the evacuation of people from vulnerable areas, taken, the governments said.
The cyclone christened 'Nivar' was very likely to cross the coast between Karaikal in Puducherry and Mamallapuram, over 50 km from here, on Wednesday late evening as a severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 100-110 km per hour gusting to 120 kmph, the Met department said on Tuesday.
It said rainfall is very likely at most places in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karaikal, near Nagapattinam, on Wednesday with heavy to very heavy showers at a few places and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places under the influence of the cyclone, the first one to form since the onset of the northeast monsoon on October 28.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry K Palaniswami and V Narayanasamy respectively on the situation arising out of the cyclone and assured them of all possible support from the Centre.
While intermittent rains lashed several parts of the state and the UT on Tuesday, multiple state and central agencies, including the Coast Guard, the National Disaster Response Force, the Fire and Rescue Services, have deployed their assets and personnel to tackle the cyclone's fury. A holiday has been declared in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for Wednesday in view of the cyclone's expected landfall while transport services have been suspended.
"It is a holiday tomorrow in Tamil Nadu. It is a general holiday. However, those involved in essential services will be working," Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami told reporters and appealed to the people to stay indoors.
In Puducherry, Industries and Revenue Minister M O H F Shah Jahan said Wednesday would be a holiday for government offices and all necessary steps had been taken to ensure people's safety.
All shops and establishments, barring those selling essentials such as medicine and milk, would be closed from Tuesday till 6 a.m. on Thursday, he said. Fishermen who put out to sea from Karaikal in 30 boats were not accessible and efforts in association with the Coast Guard were on to bring them back, the Minister told reporters.
The cyclone protection machinery at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam, about 20 kms from Mamallapuram, has been 'activated' and the authorities were on high alert and closely monitoring the weather to take necessary actions when required, a top official said. "All the plant systems are operating normal and expected to successfully withstand the impact of cyclone Nivar, when it crosses the coast," Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) Station Director M Srinivas said in a release.
Palaniswami said as many as 4,133 vulnerable locations have been identified in the state and district collectors advised to take measures to ensure people's safety. There are 3,146 cyclone shelters and people accommodated there would be provided with all necessary items, including milk for children, he said. Tamil Nadu government said Palaniswami apprised the Prime Minister about the precautionary measures in place and Modi assured Centre's help and cooperation. Authorities said the reservoirs here, including Chembarambakkam, were under a 'constant watch' and people in low lying areas were being brought to safe shelters.
A Met department bulletin said the deep depression over southwest Bay of Bengal moved west-northwestwards and intensified into a cyclonic storm 'Nivar' and lay about 380 km off Puducherry and 430 km from Chennai as of 2.30 pm on Tuesday. The cyclonic storm is very likely to intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move west-northwestwards for next 12 hours and then move northwestwards before making landfall. Gale wind - speed reaching 65-75 kmph and gusting to 85 kmph is prevailing over southwest Bay of Bengal.
Sea condition is rough to very rough along the coasts and tidal wave of about one meter height is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of north coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, it said. With the suspension of bus services in Pudukottai, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore, Villupuram and Chengelpet from Tuesday afternoon, the roads were deserted in the regions and only a minimum number of buses could be seen on the city roads. Southern Railway announced cancellation of 12 trains, including the ChennaiMadurai Special, and running of suburban trains is conditional upon "prevailing weather."
The Tamil Nadu government said people may contact the emergency call centres at 044-28888105 and 7338895011.
In Puducherry, the control rooms with phone numbers 1070 and 1077 were in place in addition to emergency response teams. Fire and Rescue Services department has deployed its personnel in a string of locations including Mamallapuram with necessary equipment and inflatable boats. The Defence public relations unit here on its twitter handle said the Coast Guard in coordination with state and district administrations has ensured safe return of fishing boats.
Four Offshore Patrol Vessels have been deployed by the Coast Guard for disaster relief and two helicopters are on standby for post landfall rescue and relief. As many as three Dornier aircraft are on standby at Visakhapatnam and 15 disaster relief teams are ready to assist the state governments. Preparatory activities to combat the effects of the cyclone has been carried out and five flood relief teams and one diving team is ready for deployment at Chennai, it said.
Also, "one flood relief team each is also standby at Naval Detachment Nagapattinam, Rameswaram and Air Station Parundu. One ship, INS Jyoti has been deployed from Visakhapatnam, with HADR bricks and diving teams to render assistance as required along the TN&P coast."
The National Disaster Response Force has earmarked nine teams together for Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. The NDRF personnel have already inspected various vulnerable areas including Cuddalore and the force's deployment includes two teams each for Chennai and Puducherry and one each for Karaikal and Madurai regions.