Cyclone Nivar Reaches India, Battering Its Eastern Coast

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NEW DELHI — A severe cyclone made landfall in eastern India early Thursday, killing at least three people and lashing coastal areas off the Bay of Bengal with strong winds and heavy rain.

Cyclone Nivar, the fourth named storm in the North Indian Ocean this year, struck near Puducherry, a city about 90 miles south of the manufacturing hub of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu. The storm weakened significantly on landfall and has continued to weaken as it moved northwest.

In Chennai, one person was killed by a falling tree. Two others were killed elsewhere in the state when the houses they were in collapsed. The affected areas were scattered with tree debris and downed electrical poles, and the land swollen with rainwater.

In Puducherry, no deaths have been reported.

“The situation is nothing very serious,” said Tamil Selvan, an officer in Puducherry’s disaster management department.

Officials evacuated a few hundred thousand people from coastal housing in both Puducherry and Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, sending residents to cyclone shelters and relief camps.

Some 225,000 evacuees remained in shelters on Thursday in Tamil Nadu, said P. Rajsekhar, an officer in the state’s disaster management control room.

Nivar made landfall at a speed of about 75 miles an hour, equivalent to a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, bringing heavy rainfall, squalls and flooding.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had spoken to the top officials of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

“I pray for the safety and well-being of those living in the affected areas,” Mr. Modi said.

Cyclones have grown more intense and more frequent across South Asia as climate change has resulted in warmer sea temperatures.

Cyclone Amphan, the most severe to hit South Asia in decades, forced the relocation of three million people in India and Bangladesh in May as it washed away bridges and downed electrical lines.

Ahead of landfall, television news reports in Chennai showed waves lashing the rocky coast and people walking through knee-deep water. The streets of Puducherry, a former French colony and artsy tourist destination, were essentially deserted except for some government emergency personnel.

With India’s coronavirus caseload topping nine million, officials said social distancing and mask-wearing would be observed in the shelters.

The governments in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu had set up relief camps and central communication centers, put national disaster emergency responders in place and declared Wednesday and Thursday public holidays, ordering schools closed.

In Chennai, known as India’s Motor City, automakers were assessing whether they could resume operations safely.

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