Several thousand people in Tamil Nadu fled their homes yesterday, out of the path of a cyclone due to slam coastal areas after midnight, bringing with it heavy rain.
Nivar, classified as a very severe cyclonic storm, was expected to pack winds of 120km per hour and gusts of up to 145km/h when it makes landfall, forecasters said.
Thousands of state and national emergency personnel have been deployed in the three states, where the cyclone was due to hit in the early hours of today morning.
Local authorities have declared a public holiday, shutting everything except emergency services, and a spokesman for the National Crisis Management Committee said thousands had been evacuated from their homes.
Areas in and around Tamil Nadu capital Chennai witnessed intense spells of rain, accompanied by strong winds.
The cyclone was likely to damage houses and roads, uproot power lines and trees and destroy crops along the south-east coast, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has declared a holiday today, ordered the halting of bus services, advised fishermen not venture to sea and asked people to stay indoors.
Many automobile companies in Chennai, home to a flourishing automobile industry and dubbed the “Detroit of South Asia”, shut operations yesterday, and some were likely to remain closed today, a person familiar with the matter said.
Vessels in the city’s port have been moved to sea and port operations will likely remain shut until the cyclone makes landfall, a senior port official said.
Chennai’s airport will remain closed until 7am today, India’s aviation minister said in a post on Twitter.
Local government officials in Chennai released water from the Chembarambakkam laker, cleared fallen trees and readied relief centres as they evacuated people from low lying areas.
“Residents are shifted from low lying areas close to Adyar river. They are shifted to the neighbouring relief camps as an advance precaution,” Chennai official Alby John said on Twitter.
Authorities have so far evacuated over 2,700 people and 150 more relief shelters are being readied in the city, officials said.
In the neighbouring state of Puducherry, the rain-soaked streets and markets were all deserted.
Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi appealed to locals to stay indoors and abide by authorities’ instructions.
“Move to high places wherever you have to. There are relief centres. Please move there,” Bedi said in a video message on Twitter.
But people in some pockets along the coast were reluctant to abandon their homes and fishing boats and move to government shelters.
The cyclone will affect Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh and move over Rayalaseema and southeast Telangana today.
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