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CHENNAI: Cyclone Vardah is expected to make landfall this afternoon in Tamil Nadu and several flights arriving at Chennai and flying out of the city have been cancelled or delayed this morning amid heavy rain and strong winds along the state's coast. Both Tamil Nadu and neighbour Andhra Pradesh are on high alert and teams from the Navy and the National Disaster Response Force are on standby. Cyclone Vardah is likely to hit land near Pulicat, around 60 km from Chennai, with wind speeds of around 80 to 100 km an hour. The storm, which was earlier expected to weaken, may not lose intensity after all, the Met office has said.
Flight operations were hit at Chennai airport. 15 flights were cancelled, 25 flights were diverted; 9 incoming flights delayed.
All schools and colleges have been ordered shut in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal areas of Villupuram. The Tamil Nadu Government has also asked private offices to allow their staff to take a day off or work from home.
Heavy rains and gusty winds lashed the northern coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai today. Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure.
The Met department says the sea will be rough along and off the Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu coasts. The fishermen have been asked to avoid the sea for the next 48 hours. People in low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer zones even as various government departments prep to deal with a possible crisis.
According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm. At 9:30 am, the cyclone was lay centered around 105 kms east-northeast of Chennai. By the time it makes a landfall, its wind speed is expected to be 100-110 kmph with winds gusting up to 120 kmph.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who took office last week after J Jayalalithaa's death, held a meeting of the State Disaster Management Authority. "Arrangements to be made for evacuating people in low lying and vulnerable areas. Relief centres to be kept in readiness along with necessary food, water and other arrangements. Army, Navy, Air-force and Coast Guard have been alerted to be on standby for deployment as and when necessary," a statement from the chief minister's office said.
National Disaster Management Authority, in a tweet, advised people "to remain in safe places and cooperate with state government officials and disaster management agencies". Senior officials have been sent to the districts that are likely to be on the path of the cyclone.
The Navy said it is ready for relief operations. Their ships have additional divers, doctors, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopters and relief material including food, tents, clothes, medicines and blankets fit for over 5,000 people. Besides, 30 diving teams with additional relief material are kept on standby.
The storm is expected to damage thatched huts, power and communication lines. Paddy crops and orchards may also be affected in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu; Ongole and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry, the Met department said in its advisory.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also reviewed the situation through teleconference with top officials on Sunday evening. Food and other essential commodities have been kept ready in adequate quantities, he said.
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