Cyclone Vardah, which has intensified on the southeast Bay of Bengal into a very severe storm, made landfall north of the Chennai coast in Pulicat on Monday afternoon. So far, four people have died as a result of the cyclone, including two in Chennai, one in Kanchipuram and one in Nagapattinam, the National Disaster Management Authority said. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announced a Rs-4 lakh compensation from the state’s disaster relief fund for the next of kin of those who died in the storm.
The Tamil Nadu government has declared Tuesday a holiday for state-run schools, private schools, colleges and other educational institues in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur.
The Indian Meteorological Department had said the system might weaken to become a cyclonic storm from a “severe” cyclonic storm. So far, 47 huts have been damaged, and 8,008 people have been accommodated in 95 relief camps, the NDMA said, adding that strong winds had knocked over 3,384 trees, while 696 were uprooted.
Panneerselvam apprised Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh of the situation.
More than 15 teams of the National Disaster Response Force – eight in Tamil Nadu and seven in Andhra Pradesh – have been deployed for relief and rescue operations. Teams began clearing the roads and began relief operations after 4 pm.
“Some more teams are on alert in Arrakonam and Guntur, and they can be sent immediately in case they are required. We are in constant touch with the two state governments, the Indian Meteorological Department and other relief agencies,” NDRF Director General RK Pachnanda told PTI.
In Chennai alone, two 45-member teams have been placed in Basin bridge, and one is in Adyar. Each of these teams is equipped with rescue gadgets and boats. Seven Army columns are also on standby for rescue and relief operations, of which one has already been deployed at Tiruvallur, about 50 km north of Chennai. The Indian Navy has two ships – Shivalik and Kadmat – and 30 diving teams on standby.
The ships have additional divers, doctors on board, and are equipped with inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopters and relief material like food, tents, clothes, medicines and blankets. A Navy official told NDTV that the relief materials are adequate for over 5,000 people. Besides, two naval aircraft could be pressed into action if need be.
The Tamil Nadu government has already evacuated 7,357 people to 54 relief centres. Till now, Chennai has recorded 57mm of rainfall since Sunday night and is expected to see heavy rainfall further. Power supply was suspended in many parts of the city as a precautionary measure. Several parts of the city have also gone under water.
All operations at Chennai airport have been suspended till 9 pm. Earlier, at least 25 incoming flights were diverted and 25 outgoing flights were delayed because of bad weather. A section of the local train services has been suspended in Chennai, reported NDTV.
The last time the eye of a cyclone passed over the Chennai was in 1994.
In December 2015, coastal parts of Tamil Nadu were hit by very severe floods caused by heavy rainfall and poor drainage, in which more than 300 people died.