- Coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are bracing for Cyclone Nivar
- Flights wont take off or land at Chennai airport for 12 hours
- Bus and metro services will be suspended too, authorities said
Severe cyclonic storm Nivar is further likely to weaken into a "cyclonic storm" in the next few hours. It brought very heavy rainfall in Puducherry (237 mm), Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore town (237 mm) and state capital Chennai late last night.
"Over 1.45 lakh people have been shifted to 1,516 relief camps across the state as a precaution," RB Udhayakumar, Tamil Nadu's disaster management minister, told news agency Reuters. The districts of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, located south of Chennai on the state's coast, accounted for the most number of evacuations. The minister, in a late-night statement, said the state is "awaiting information on damages from districts". "The state government will work on a war-footing," he added.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami appealed to people to stay indoors as far as possible and said over 4,000 "vulnerable" locations had been identified and local officials have been told to ensure peoples' safety.
Government officials in Chennai released water from a major reservoir and cleared fallen trees. Vessels in the city's port have been moved to sea and port operations will likely remain shut until the cyclone has passed, a senior port official said. With memories of the 2015 floods still fresh, Tamil Nadu is also monitoring four other reservoirs in anticipation of a rapid rise in water levels.
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy told NDTV that the union territory anticipates damage to crops, thatched roofs, and old buildings, besides power and communication lines. On Wednesday, Puducherry banned large gatherings and public movement till 6 am Thursday. All non-essential shops and services have been shut; only milk booths, fuel stations, hospitals and pharmacies, and government offices will be allowed to open.
Around 1,200 National Disaster Response Force personnel have been stationed in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as well, NDRF chief SN Pradhan told PTI. Twelve teams are in Tamil Nadu (six in Cuddalore district and two in Chennai), seven in Andhra Pradesh and three in Puducherry. An additional 20 teams will be on standby in Odisha's Cuttack, Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh and Thrissur in Kerala.
The Indian Navy has said it is closely monitoring the movement of Nivar, and is in constant touch with officials of both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry governments. Naval ships, aircraft and rescue and diving teams have been kept on standby.
An alert has been sounded at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Tamil Nadu's Kalpakkam, which is around 20 km from Mamallapuram. Authorities are closely monitoring the weather to take action as required, officials told news agency PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted earlier on Tuesday, "Spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Shri Edappadi K Palaniswami and Puducherry Chief Minister Shri V Narayanasamy regarding the situation in the wake of Cyclone Nivar. Assured all possible support from the Centre. I pray for the safety and well-being of those living in the affected areas."
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has also sounded an alert. The state is expected to receive heavy rainfall as Nivar moves inland. Nellore and Chittoor districts are on alert, as are parts of Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantpur, with between 11 and 20 cm of rain and wind speeds of up to 75 km per hour expected. Fishermen have been advised not to go out to sea and low-lying areas have been warned of flooding.