The mighty storm Nivar made landfall early Thursday in India accompanied by heavy rains and gusts, forcing authorities to evacuate tens of thousands of people on the South East coast.
Nivar, first classified by the Indian meteorological services as a “very strong tropical storm” then downgraded to “strong tropical storm”, struck shortly after 3h local time between Karaikal (territory of Pondicherry) and the state of Tamil Nadu, with winds up to 130 km / h.
Thousands of relief workers had been deployed in advance to areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states as well as to Pondicherry territory. Local authorities had preventively suspended the supply of electricity to limit damage to the network.
A woman perished in Tamil Nadu when a wall collapsed after heavy rains, local media reported.
The storm is expected to head north while weakening over the next few hours, the weather services India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
However, the danger “has not yet passed, because part of the cyclone is still above the sea, even if the eye is above the land”, warned the IMD on Twitter.
Heavy gusts uprooted trees and knocked down utility poles, and heavy rains caused flooding.
Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district has received nearly 244 millimeters of precipitation since Wednesday morning, and a thunderstorm alert has been issued for the entire state. Wednesday and Thursday were declared public holidays.
According to Tamil Nadu Minister RB Udhayakumar, some 175,000 people were evacuated to shelters. At the state capital Chennai airport, flights were suspended until Thursday morning, as was the metro.
In Pondicherry, home to around 1.6 million people, the soggy streets and markets were deserted as it approached. Nivar. The Lieutenant Governor of the territory, Kiran Bedi, called on residents to stay at home and abide by the authorities’ instructions.
“Head to high places wherever needed. There are rescue centers. Please go ahead ”said Mme Bedi in a video message posted to Twitter. The navy was mobilized to provide assistance to the victims.
In some coastal areas, however, residents were reluctant to abandon their homes and fishing boats, noted an AFP journalist.
In Chennai, authorities said they were closely monitoring the level of lakes and reservoirs to prevent a repeat of the deadly floods of late 2015 that claimed the lives of more than 250 people.
Around Lake Chembarambakkam, near Chennai, residents living in lower areas have been warned of the risk of overflow.
In May, more than 110 people died during the passage through eastern India and Bangladesh of the powerful cyclone Amphan, which had also caused considerable property damage. The death toll, however, was far below the thousands of deaths previously caused by comparable cyclones, thanks to improved weather forecasts and developed response plans.