A woman walks under an umbrella during heavy rain in Chennai. AFP
Nirmala Joseph, Correspondent
A deep depression over southwest Bay of Bengal has moved west-northwestwards on Tuesday, and has intensified into Cyclonic Storm Nivar, officials at the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) in Chennai said.
It would further increase to 120 kmph over the southwest Bay of Bengal from Wednesday morning over the next 18 hours.
A bulletin issued by the RMC on Tuesday said the storm now lay centred over southwest Bay of Bengal, about 410 km east -southeast of Puducherry and 450 km southeast of Chennai.
The RMC bulletin said: "The cyclone is very likely to intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours, move west-northwestwards for next 12 hours and then northwestwards.
"The storm is likely to cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts between Karaikal and Mamallapuram, about 55 km from here, around Puducherry tomorrow evening as a severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph.” Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karaikal are under a Red Alert for Wednesday. A yellow alert is in place for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
The cyclone will hit along and off coastal districts of North Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Myladuthurai, Cuddalore, Puducherry, Villupuram and Chengalpattu districts; 80-90 gusting to 100 kmph very likely over Tiruvarur, Kanchipuram, Chennai, Tiruvallaur districts) from Wednesday forenoon to night.
Incessant rains are lashing Chennai, suburbs and the delta districts of the state. The Met office rain will ease gradually when the cyclone moves towards the coast and at the time of making the landfall. M.R.C.
Nagar, Pattinapakkam, Marina, Manthaiveli and Mylapore received heavy rains on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and discussed the precautionary measures taken by the government in view of the cyclone.
"Spoke to Tamil Nadu CM Shri @EPSTamilNadu and Puducherry CM Shri @VNarayanasami regarding the situation in the wake of Cyclone Nivar,” Modi said in a tweet.
The Prime Minister added: "Assured all possible support from the Centre. I pray for the safety and well-being of those living in the affected areas.”
The government has appointed senior officials in various districts to monitor the situaton. The district adminstrations are focused on preventing loss of human lives, livestock, cattle and property, officials said. The Police, Fire and Rescue Services, Revenue and other main departments have also been put on high alert.
The government announced suspension of bus transport services in Delta districts from 1 pm Tuesday until further orders. Inter and intra-district buses went off the roads in Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Villupuram, Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur districts.
The Southern Railway cancelled 24 trains and partially cancelled several other trains as a precaution.
The Greater Chennai Corporation has set up relief centres at 75 locations across the city to house people evacuated from low lying areas in view of the cyclonic storm. Officials said that some 19 areas were identified as vulnerable to flooding and the authorities have advised people in these areas to move to relief centres.
The Met office suggested total suspension of fishing operations.
Fishermen are advised not to venture into Southwest and adjoining west-central and southeast Bay of Bengal, Gulf of Mannar and along and off Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh coasts for the next two days.
Fishermen who had ventured into the sea are advised to return to the coast and coastal hutment dwellers were asked to move to safer places and people were asked to stay indoors.
The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation said it has kept men, machinery and materials ready to handle the impact of Cyclone Nivar.
Electricity Minister P Thangamani said as a precautionary measure, power supply would be cut for one hour when the cyclone is crossing the coast.
Palaniswami appealed to the people not to venture out in the coming couple of days, except for essential needs, as there were high chances of trees getting uprooted due to the strong winds triggered by Cyclone Nivar.
At least 10 NDRF teams are also kept on stand-by as the cyclonic storm is likely to hit the coastal districts with "very heavy rainfall" on Wednesday evening.
Cyclone Nivar made landfall near the city of Puducherry in the southern state of Tamil Nadu with winds of up to 130 km per hour (81 miles per hour), according to the India Meteorological Department.
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