Cyclone Vardah has struck close to Tamil Nadu capital Chennai
CHENNAI: Two people have died as Cyclone Vardah hit the Tamil Nadu coast on Monday afternoon making landfall at Pulicat, about 60 km from capital Chennai. The cyclonic storm will take about four hours to cross land completely. The cyclone brought with it heavy rain and strong winds that have lashed the coast in Tamil Nadu and neighbour Andhra Pradesh and the Army, Navy and Air Force are on stand by. More than 16,000 people have been evacuated. Flight operations have been suspended at the Chennai airport till 9 pm. Cyclone Vardah has hit land with wind speeds of between 120 and 130 kmph.
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Over 7,000 people have been evacuated from near the sea in Tamil Nadu and more than 9,000 in Andhra Pradesh. The Navy said it has two ships ready with doctors, food and water for 5,000 people. 30 diving teams with additional relief material are also on the ready.
The Air Force Base at Tambaram near Chennai said it is prepared for "any contingency. 15 teams of the National Disaster Relief Force or NDRF have been deployed along the coast. The Army has seven columns ready for rescue operations if needed.
All schools and colleges are closed today in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal areas of Villupuram. The Tamil Nadu Government has also asked private offices to allow their staff to take a day off or work from home.
The heavy rain and strong winds that are lashing Chennai have uprooted and bent trees. Power supply was suspended in many parts of the state as a precaution.
The Met department said the sea will be rough along and off the Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu coasts for 48 hours and fishermen have been asked to avoid going out to sea in this period.
The National Disaster Management Authority advised people "to remain in safe places and cooperate with state government officials and disaster management agencies". Senior officials have been sent to the districts that are likely to be on the path of the cyclone.
174 relief centres are ready to receive evacuated people in Chennai. The storm is expected to damage thatched huts, power and communication lines.
Paddy crops and orchards may also be affected in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu; Ongole and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry, the Met department said in its advisory.