Nivar on course to make landfall near Puducherry, TN

With wind speed of up to 145 kmph, Cyclone Nivar on course to make landfall near Puducherry, Tamil Nadu

Over 1 lakh people evacuated in Tamil Nadu, landfall expected to take over two hours

Strong winds at a coastal area before the landfall of Cyclone Nivar, in Mamallapuram. Credit: PTI.

Powerful Cyclone Nivar packing winds with the speed of 120 to 130 kmph gushing up to 145 kmph, was on course to make landfall between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts by early Thursday, as heavy rains continued to pound the city and other coastal districts of the state for the second straight day.

Besides massive efforts by the governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, two warships – INS Sumitra and INS Jyoti – are 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.

Over 1 lakh people evacuated in Tamil Nadu

Over 1 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.

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.

Landfall to take over two hours

Cyclone Nivar also increased its speed from 7 kmph at 5:30 am to 16 kmph at 5:30 pm and intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm Wednesday evening, with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting the landfall to be around Puducherry.

Read | Cyclone Nivar: Chennai floats as rains batter city; residents evacuated using boats

However, independent weather bloggers and weather portals said the cyclone will cross between Mamallapuram and Kalpakkam, which houses an atomic power station. Authorities at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) said they were prepared for any eventuality.

“The cyclone will begin its landfall on Wednesday night. It would take more than two hours for Cyclone Nivar to complete its landfall. It will cross the Tamil Nadu-Puducherry coast as a very severe cyclone,” he told Deccan Herald. As per IMD bulletin released at 5 pm, the cyclone was moving at a speed of 16 km per hour and will pack winds with the speed of 120 to 130 km per hour gushing up to 145 km per hour.

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.

Hospitals asked to be ready

With power supply likely to be snapped during the landfall time, the government asked hospitals to ensure that their generators are in working condition and that they have enough fuel in reserve. Tamil Nadu government has kept 465 ambulances ready in the seven districts, while setting up control rooms set up in all 36 revenue districts.

Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan visited the government hospital in Mamallapuram, one of the areas to be affected, and checked the preparedness.

The IMD also forecast heavy to very heavy rains for the next two days in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, and Chengalpattu districts and warned of flooding, disruption of electricity and water services, possible damage to roads, and some areas getting inundated. Rains will continue across coastal Tamil Nadu.

Public transport remains suspended in Pudukkottai, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore, Villupuram, and Chengalpattu districts, and in Puducherry, and Karaikal till further orders, while sub-urban trains in Chennai will not run beyond 10 am on Wednesday.

Chennai to receive rains for two days

Chennai and other coastal districts continued to receive heavy to heavy rains since Tuesday morning submerging many low-lying areas across the metropolis. The city's average rainfall in the last 24 hours ending at 8.30 am on Wednesday was 16 cm, the IMD said, adding this was the highest in the state.

Intensity of the rain in Chennai was only increasing every hour with the majority of the areas getting drenched since Tuesday. The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) said it was prepared to face any eventuality and has set up 169 relief centres across the city to house people who are being evacuated from low-lying areas.

Water released from Chembarambakkam Lake

In Chennai, people living in low-lying areas on the banks of Adyar River were asked to be vigilant and move to safety as the Public Works Department (PWD) released 5,000 cusecs of water from the Chembarambakkam Lake, one of the reservoirs that supply water to the city.

Release of water from the lake caused much fear among people as it is widely believed that discharge of excess water from Chembarambakkam Lake at “one go” led to unprecedented floods in Chennai in the first week of December 2015.

However, authorities asked people not to panic. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami visited Chembarambakkam Lake to take stock of the situation, while Leader of Opposition M K Stalin too hit the streets by visiting flood-affected areas in his constituency, Kolathur in Chennai, and other areas of the city.

The Public Works Department (PWD) said according to protocol excess water will be released once the water level reaches 22 feet as against the full reservoir level of 24 feet.

Measures in Puducherry

With the cyclone likely to make landfall around Puducherry, Chief Minister V Narayanasamy held a review meeting on Monday night and asked all departments to open control rooms to attend to complaints from people relating to the cyclone.

Elaborate precautionary measures have been taken in Karaikal, an enclave attached to the UT which is around 150 km from Puducherry, as well with one team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) pre-positioning in the district. Two NDRF teams are in Puducherry, while six have been deployed in neighbouring Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, just 20 km away.

With the cyclone likely to uproot trees, the Public Works Department (PWD) has pruned tree branches and has kept ready the machinery needed to remove trees if they are uprooted during the landfall.

“Elaborate precautionary measures have been taken in the Union Territory because Cyclone Nivar is likely to make its landfall here. Imposition of Section 144 will help us control people from stepping out. Our aim is to minimise damage due to the cyclone as much as possible,” Narayanasamy told DH.