It has not rained in Chennai since about 4 pm, a little after Cyclone Vardah hit the Tamil Nadu coast on Monday afternoon making landfall about 15 km away from the capital. But after a one-hour lull, strong winds have started to blow again. The cyclone struck land with a wind speed of 120 and 130 kmph, bringing with it heavy rain that lashed the coast in Tamil Nadu and neighbour Andhra Pradesh all through Monday morning. More than 16,000 people have been evacuated from low areas and four people have died. Schools and colleges in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur will be closed tomorrow.
Flight operations have been suspended at the Chennai airport till 9 pm. Suburban train services have been suspended for the day.
The Met department has said that the cyclonic storm will weaken further in three or four hours, but there could be some more rain.
Cyclone Vardah uprooted hundreds of trees and some electricity poles in the Chennai, which faces a night of darkness with power supply suspended across the city as a precaution.
The state government has asked people to stay home at least till midnight. All schools and colleges were closed today in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur and private offices were asked to allow staff to take a day off or work from home.
As the cyclone struck land, so strong were the winds that glass panels blew off the facade of a five-star hotel in Chennai, while in Andhra Pradesh, an oil tanker tipped over on a highway.
The administration began clearing roads the moment the rain stopped this evening, with residents pitching in at many places, but it will be a long haul, with many arterial roads still flooded with ankle-high water.
Over 7,000 people have been evacuated from near the sea in Tamil Nadu and more than 9,400 in Andhra Pradesh and moved to relief camps.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has phoned the chief ministers of both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to assure them of the centre’s help if needed and to make an assessment of damage.
The Navy, Army and Air Force have been on the ready 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 Relief Force or NDRF has deployed 16 teams.
Cyclone Vardah will reach Karnataka tomorrow and pass over south Goa on Wednesday, December 14.