Cyclone Nivar makes landfall bringing rains, flood

A powerful cyclonic storm lashed India’s southeastern coast early on Thursday, uprooting trees and packing strong winds and rains as tens of thousands of people took refuge in shelters.

The centre of Nivar made landfall at 3:05am local time (21:35 GMT on Wednesday) near Puducherry with winds of up to 130 kilometres (81 miles) per hour.

Tamil Nadu minister RB Udhayakumar said late on Wednesday that about 175,000 people were moved to shelters across the state as local authorities declared a public holiday on Wednesday and Thursday, shutting everything except emergency services.

Thousands of state and national emergency personnel were deployed in the southern regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry as authorities suspended power supply across several cities to prevent damage to the electricity grid.

Heavy rains triggered by the storm caused flooding in some streets of the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s largest city which is home to many large automobile manufacturers, according to a Reuters witness.

Flight operations at Chennai airport were suspended until Thursday morning and metro train services halted.

People were seen walking in knee-deep water in some streets in south Chennai, which has many low-lying areas susceptible to flooding. Local administration workers have been working to remove fallen trees and power lines, city corporation officials said on Twitter.

Authorities in Chennai said they were also closely observing the level of reservoirs and lakes to avoid a repeat of 2015 flooding which killed several hundred people. Lake Chembarambakkam outside Chennai discharged extra water because of the heavy rains.

Local media reported at least five deaths in and around Chennai, due to causes including trees falling, drowning and electrocution.

Initially classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm” as it swirled in the Bay of Bengal, Nivar weakened after landfall into a “severe cyclonic storm”, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

It is forecast to move north and further weaken over the next few hours, the weather bureau added.

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