Two persons were killed as heavy rains accompanied by high velocity winds today pounded the city and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu due to severe cyclonic storm "Vardah" which began making landfall near here, uprooting hundreds of trees, disrupting land and air transport and throwing normal life out of gear.
"The landfall process of cyclone Vardah has begun," the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. According to M Mohapatra, Additional Director General (Services) of IMD, the "eye" of the Cyclone is 20 kms off Chennai. "The wind speed near Chennai 90-100 kmph. Heavy rains and storm surge is expected. Landfall process has commenced at 2 PM. The cyclone will cross between 2-5 PM," Mohapatra said.
Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure. About 8,000 people from low lying areas in north Chennai, Pazhaverkadu in Tiruvallur district and villages off Mamallapuram, in Kanchipuram district were safely evacuated to 95 relief shelters, officials said. Flight operations at the airport here have been suspended till 5 PM. Long distance buses have been stalled and traffic came to a grinding halt in most areas with uprooted trees and electric poles blocking the roads.
All suburban train services have also been suspended. Southern Railway announced cancellation of all 17 trains originating from Chennai central, as well as Egmore. State Principal Secretary (Revenue Administration) K Satyagopal said "human loss is two", without elaborating. In a statement, he said 260 trees and 37 electric poles had fallen and 190 tress removed. As many 224 roads were blocked and 24 huts damaged.
Trains to various destinations, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, Madurai, Coimbaore were all cancelled, Southern Railway said. At Kalpakkam, all safety measures have been taken in view of the atomic energy centre there, they said.
Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal coast were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rains. Seven army columns comprising around 70-80 personnel each are on standby and one has already been requisitioned in in Tiruvallur. Vardah is expected to later move towards Andhra Pradesh.
In Chennai, only a minuscule number of vehicles plied as heavy winds and rains posed serious obstacles to movement. In Chennai, traffic on arterial GST Road was affected with some trees falling near the Officers Training Academy point at St Thomas Mount.
A tree fell on a car at Ekkatuthangal near Metro Railway Station. Similarly, instances of trees getting uprooted were reported in many areas in all three coastal districts, even as Corporation workers in Chennai and municipal staffers in other districts were working to clear them amidst heavy rain and gusty winds.
Vehicular movement on the Ashok Pillar-Kodambakkam main road was affected with fallen tree branches. Heavy winds also snapped electricity wires, flung barricades put up for traffic regulation in several points of the city, including Kathipara.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government said all measures are in place to tackle Vardah with Chief Minister O Panneerselvam holding a high-level meeting of top officials at the Secretariat.
The state government in an official release asked residents of Chennai to not venture out of their homes till about 4 PM when the cyclone will cross the coast.