Chennai/Amrawati: Cyclone Vardah hit Tamil Nadu on Monday and claimed ten lives, flattened homes, snapped communication lines and threw into disarray rail, road and air traffic as it crossed the coast here, pounding Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram with heavy rain and squall.
Thousands of people were evacuated as roaring wind clocking speed of 100 km an hour uprooted trees, tore off hoardings and toppled cars.
Public transport came to a standstill in Chennai with buses and suburban trains suspended and airport shut. Rail, road and air traffic, official sources said, were likely to be restored by tomorrow.
Most commercial establishments downed shutters in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts.
"After 1994, this is the first very severe cyclonic storm to hit Chennai coast. The storm has completely crossed the coast as expected (this evening)," a senior Met Official here told PTI.
Civic workers used hand-held battery-operated wood cutters to remove hundreds of uprooted trees lying on the roads.
Personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and SDRF were deployed for rescue efforts as Army was put on standby.
— NDMA India (@ndmaindia) December 12, 2016
— NDMA India (@ndmaindia) December 11, 2016
— NDMA India (@ndmaindia) December 12, 2016
The Met department predicted rainfall over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 36 hours (till Wednesday).
The Tamil Nadu government declared a holiday for all government, government-aided private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in the affected areas.
It has told the private sector to allow their workers to avail a holiday or work from home, as per IANS.
The Southern Railway said the cyclone had caused severe impact to its infrastructure and prompted cancellation, diversion and suspension of rail services.
"The intensity of the cyclone has had a severe impact on the infrastructure of Chennai Division, resulting in considerable damage. Overhead electrical lines have been damaged at several locations," Anupam Sharma, Divisional Railway Manager, Southern Railway said.
Several Chennai-bound trains have been regulated at various stations of Chennai division, he said.
Although all efforts were being made to restore normalcy as early as possible, full assessment for restoration work was possible only after the cyclone has finally ebbed away, he added.
Urgent steps were being taken to ensure movement of all Mail/Express trains which were held up mid-section. Passengers of all such trains were given maximum facilities so as to obviate the hardships to the extent possible, Sharma said.
Operations at Chennai airport were suspended for the entire night, with nearly 170 services being disrupted through the day even as 10 flights were cancelled.
A total of 44 international and 123 domestic services were affected as they were diverted to nearby airports like Bengaluru even as many stranded passengers were still waiting at domestic and international terminals.
Departing flights to cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru were cancelled.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to take stock of the situation in the two states and promised all help.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Nadu apprised the Home Minister of the damage caused by the cyclone and steps taken for the rescue and relief.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was constantly monitoring the situation as state ministers were visiting relief centres to oversee relief distribution.
Though no major loss of life or property has been reported from Andhra Pradesh so far, heavy rains lashed Chittoor and SPS Nellore district, affecting normal life.
A report from Amravati in Andhra Pradesh said as many as 18 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who strayed into the Bay of Bengal yesterday despite warnings, were rescued from near the Sriharikota high altitude range in afternoon.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced in evening that Andhra Pradesh was ready to extend all necessary help to neighbouring Tamil Nadu that bore the brunt of 'Vardah'.
With forecast of heavy rains for the next 24 hours in Nellore, Chittoor, Prakasam and Anantapuramu districts, the official machinery has been asked to remain on alert, mostly to prevent breach of tanks.
(With Agency inputs)