Chennai: Heavy rains on Monday pounded the city and north coastal districts of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, inundating low lying areas, while high velocity winds uprooted hundreds of trees as the severe cyclonic storm Vardah reached about 60 kms northeast of Chennai and was likely to make landfall in the next couple of hours.
According to the IMD bulletin at noon, by the time Vardah hits the coast, winds with speed of 100-110 kmph to 120 kmph are like to sweep the region.
Squally winds hit Chennai this morning as the very severe cyclonic storm approached Tamil Nadu. Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure.
The rains intensified as the cyclone neared leading to waterlogging in many areas.
The Tamil Nadu government had declared holiday for educational institutions in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal taluks of Villupuram.
Rail and flight services in Chennai have been affected, officials said.
Around 25 incoming flights, including those from international destinations, were diverted to the nearby Hyderabad and Bangalore airports due to strong winds and poor visibility, airport officials said.
Nearly 25 outbound flights were delayed, officials said, adding that there was no inundation of the runway.
An emergency management team was on standby to meet any eventuality, they said.
The Southern Railways, meanwhile, announced suspension of services on the Chennai Beach and Velacherry MRTS route.
Similarly, suburban rail services on the MMC-Gummidipoondi line were also suspended until further notice. Some passenger trains coming to Chennai and leaving the city were also diverted.
The system was likely to move nearly westwards and weaken gradually while moving towards north Tamil Nadu and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts.
However, according to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.
Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which are on high alert due to the approaching cyclonic storm.
The armed forces have been asked to be on standby with the army, navy and air force prepared to be deployed anytime as and when required.
People in low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer zones.
Puducherry also experienced intermittent drizzle from early morning. The state government took precautionary steps to prevent tourists and other people from going close to the sea shore.
Police personnel were deployed on the entire two-and-a-half kilometre stretch of beach road and barricades were also put on all roads close to the sea shore. All schools and colleges are closed on Monday.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief RK Pachnanda said while eight teams are ready in various areas of Tamil Nadu, seven are in Andhra Pradesh, apart from few others in nearby locations.
"Some more teams are on alert in Arrakonam and Guntur and they can be transported immediately in case they are required. We are in constant touch with the two state governments, the Indian Meteorological Department and other relief agencies," the NDRF Director General told PTI.
Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh are also expected to affected.
Over 9,400 people in seven mandals along the Bay of Bengal coast in Nellore were evacuated to relief camps this morning amid heavy rains.
Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons.
The holy Tirumala Hills have been receiving rainfall since last night, causing some hardship to devotees visiting the shrine of Lord Venkateswara.
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation through teleconference and asked the state agencies to remain on high alert to prevent loss of lives, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Navy said it has stationed two ships north of Chennai to render any immediate assistance.
"We have put two ships to sea — an ASW frigate and a stealth frigate. They are holding north of Chennai for immediate assistance if required," Navy PRO Capt DK Sharma said.
He said winds of 120-150 kmph are sweeping the area and a lot of trees have been uprooted.
"We anticipate that with this kind of advance, the cyclone is likely to make landfall somewhere north of Chennai, short of Pulicat."
He said the Navy is ready with humanitarian assistance like food, water, medicines and blankets.
"We have enough divers, doctors and integral helicopters should there be a need for immediate assistance or evacuation," the officer said.
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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2016 16:34:59 IST