On Monday, a severe cyclonic storm hit the Tamil Nadu coast killing 12 people and uprooting trees, flattening homes, making landfall about 15 km away from the capital Chennai and leaving worst-hit Chennai without power since Monday afternoon. The cyclone put normal life in distress for over eight hours on Monday.
Authorities have evacuated tens of thousands people from low-lying areas and closed schools and colleges.
The Cyclone Vardah uprooted over 3,000 trees in Chennai city alone, claimed four lives in the state, and left hundreds homeless along the coastline of northern Tamil Nadu and southern coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh.
With hundreds of trees uprooted along the major roads, police and district administration were busy till late on Monday to clear major routes connecting Chennai.
Villupuram, southern Chennai, was another pocket that reported massive impact with dozens of houses damaged.
Other deaths were reported from Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Villupuram and Nagapattinam, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said, but did not give details of the incidents.
In Andhra Pradesh, two people were electrocuted in Chittor town when they touched live power cables felled during the storm. The Coast Guard also mounted search for two fishermen reported missing in Kakinada.
Civic workers used hand-held battery-operated wood cutters to remove hundreds of uprooted trees, some of them falling over vehicles.
The Cyclone is weak now. As the Regional Meteorological Department (MET) office has forecast heavy rain in the next 12 hours, though the Chennai airport was re-opened for traffic on Tuesday, offices and education institute remain shut in the affected districts including Chennai on Tuesday.
The state government has announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh each to the relatives of those killed in Vardah-related incidents.
As Chennai city came in the eye of the “very severe” Cyclone Vardah – meaning red rose, MET department kept sending warnings on the speed of the stormy winds, which started at 30-45 kmph in the morning and went up to 120 kmph as the eye of Vardah finally crossed Chennai between 1.30 pm and 2.30 pm. About 20 cm rainfall was reported.
The Cyclone was the most intense storm to have hit Chennai in two decades and packed wind speed of up to 140 kmph at its peak.
The Navy, Army and Air Force are on standby to assist with evacuation and rescue. The Navy has had two ships ready with doctors, food and water for 5,000 people. The National Disaster Response Force or NDRF has deployed 16 teams.
In a series of tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed solidarity, “My prayers are with all those people who are affected due to adverse weather conditions caused by #CycloneVardah. Stay safe.”
Home Minister Rajnath Singh phoned the Chief Ministers of both Chennai and Andhra Pradesh to assure them of the centre’s help if needed and to make an assessment of the damage.