Severe cyclonic storm Nivar is expected to cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts around midnight or early hours of Thursday as a very severe cyclonic storm, India Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.
The official machinery has been put on high alert in Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring union territory of Puducherry and extensive precautionary measures, including evacuation of people from vulnerable areas, taken, the governments said.
Moving at a speed of about 7kmph over the past six hours, the severe cyclonic storm Nivar lay centred about 290km east-southeast of Cuddalore, about 300km east-southeast of Puducherry and 350km south-southeast of Chennai, the weather department said.
Several parts of Chennai were inundated as rain battered the city on Wednesday. Water stagnation was reported in 53 places in the city.
Over the next 12 hours, Nivar is likely to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm.
Nivar is likely to move ttowards northwest and cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts between Mamallapuram and Karaikal around Puducherry during the intervening night of November 25 and 26 as a very severe cyclonic storm.
The wind speed when Nivar crosses the coast will be 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph.
The weather department has forecast fairly widespread to widespread rainfall/thunderstorm activity very likely over coastal and north interior Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karaikal, south coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema during November 25 and 26 and southeast Telangana on Thursday.
Isolated extremely heavy rainfall activity is also very likely over coastal and north interior Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu, Myladuthirai, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Kallakurchi, Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, Puducherry and Karaikal districts); over Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday and over Rayalseema and southeast Telangana on Thursday.
PM speaks to CMs
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry K Palaniswami and V Narayanasamy respectively on the situation arising out of the cyclone and assured them of all possible support from the Centre.
While intermittent rains lashed several parts of the state and the UT on Tuesday, multiple state and central agencies, including the Coast Guard, the National Disaster Response Force, the Fire and Rescue Services, have deployed their assets and personnel to tackle the cyclone's fury.
A holiday has been declared in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for Wednesday in view of the cyclone's expected landfall while transport services have been suspended.
"It is a holiday tomorrow in Tamil Nadu. It is a general holiday. However, those involved in essential services will be working," Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami told reporters and appealed to the people to stay indoors.
In Puducherry, Industries and Revenue Minister M O H F Shah Jahan said Wednesday would be a holiday for government offices and all necessary steps had been taken to ensure people's safety.
All shops and establishments, barring those selling essentials such as medicine and milk, would be closed from Tuesday till 6am on Thursday, he said.
Fishermen who put out to sea from Karaikal in 30 boats were not accessible and efforts in association with the Coast Guard were on to bring them back, the Minister told reporters.
Kalpakkam nuclear power complex on high alert
The cyclone protection machinery at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam, about 20 kms from Mamallapuram, has been 'activated' and the authorities were on high alert and closely monitoring the weather to take necessary actions when required, a top official said.
"All the plant systems are operating normal and expected to successfully withstand the impact of cyclone Nivar, when it crosses the coast," Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) Station Director M Srinivas said in a release.
Over 3,000 shelters
Palaniswami said as many as 4,133 vulnerable locations have been identified in the state and district collectors advised to take measures to ensure people's safety.
There are 3,146 cyclone shelters and people accommodated there would be provided with all necessary items, including milk for children, he said.
Tamil Nadu government said Palaniswami apprised the prime minister about the precautionary measures in place and Modi assured Centre's help and cooperation.
Authorities said the reservoirs here, including Chembarambakkam, were under a 'constant watch' and people in low lying areas were being brought to safe shelters.
Buses and trains cancelled
With the suspension of bus services in Pudukottai, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore, Villupuram and Chengelpet from Tuesday afternoon, the roads were deserted in the regions and only a minimum number of buses could be seen on the city roads.
Southern Railway announced cancellation of 12 trains, including the ChennaiMadurai Special, and running of suburban trains is conditional upon "prevailing weather."
The Tamil Nadu government said people may contact the emergency call centres at 044-28888105 and 7338895011.
In Puducherry, the control rooms with phone numbers 1070 and 1077 were in place in addition to emergency response teams.
Fire and Rescue Services department has deployed its personnel in a string of locations including Mamallapuram with necessary equipment and inflatable boats.
The Defence public relations unit here on its twitter handle said the Coast Guard in coordination with state and district administrations has ensured safe return of fishing boats.
Four Offshore Patrol Vessels have been deployed by the Coast Guard for disaster relief and two helicopters are on standby for post landfall rescue and relief.
As many as three Dornier aircraft are on standby at Visakhapatnam and 15 disaster relief teams are ready to assist the state governments.
Preparatory activities to combat the effects of the cyclone has been carried out and five flood relief teams and one diving team is ready for deployment at Chennai, it said.
Also, "one flood relief team each is also standby at Naval Detachment Nagapattinam, Rameswaram and Air Station Parundu. One ship, INS Jyoti has been deployed from Visakhapatnam, with HADR bricks and diving teams to render assistance as required along the TN&P coast."
The National Disaster Response Force has earmarked nine teams together for Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. The NDRF personnel have already inspected various vulnerable areas including Cuddalore and the force's deployment includes two teams each for Chennai and Puducherry and one each for Karaikal and Madurai regions.
Jagan sounds alert
In the light of Nivar poised to strike Tamil Nadu and parts of his state, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy sounded an alert on Tuesday and instructed the state machinery to be prepared.
In a review meeting with District Collectors and Superintendents of Police, he asked them to be on high alert especially when Nivar makes landfall.
"Though the cyclone is not going to touch Andhra Pradesh directly, it would have an impact in areas closer to Tamil Nadu.... inclement weather would prevail on Tuesday and Wednesday and preparedness should be in place," he said.
Reddy said parts of Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur districts and coastal areas of Prakasam are likely to receive 11-20 cm rainfall, while winds with up to speeds of 65 to 75 km per hour are expected.
He also instructed officials to set up relief and rehabilitation camps wherever required in Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasam.