Chennai, Dec 12 : With cyclone Vardah set for landfall near Chennai, strong winds and rains lashed the city and northern Tamil Nadu and people in low lying areas were evacuated to safer places.
According to officials, over 4,600 people were shifted to relief camps in four districts — Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Villupuram.
The government readied boats for relief work. The landfall is expected by Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, strong winds ravaged the city, felling trees. Many fell on the roads, blocking traffic.
The railways cancelled suburban rail services and diverted some long distance trains.
“As the wind speed is around 50 knots, it is not conducive to operate flights. Twenty flights have been diverted, nine flights got delayed and five were cancelled,” Chennai Airport Director Deepak Shastri told IANS.
The airport was, however, not closed, Shastri added.
The Met department predicted rainfall over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 36 hours (till Wednesday).
The rainfall intensity would increase gradually, becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places, and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (less than equal to 20 cm) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on Monday.
The weather department warned of squally winds reaching 50-60 kmph along and off Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coast, becoming 100-110 to 120 kmph during the time of landfall along and off Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and in Nellore and Prakasam in Andhra Pradesh.
The tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh during landfall.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has taken steps to meet the situation that may arise due to the cyclone.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Sunday reviewed the preparedness with ministers and officials.
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard were geared up to lend a elping hand.
The government declared a holiday for all government, government-aided private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts.
The Tamil Nadu government also advised private sector organisations to allow their workers to avail a holiday or work from home.