Thousands of people were evacuated on Wednesday by authorities on the south-eastern coast of India before the arrival of a cyclone expected after midnight with downpours.
Cyclone Nivar, classified by the Indian meteorological services as a “very strong tropical storm”, is expected to make landfall with winds of 120 km / h and gusts of up to 145 km / h.
Thousands of rescue personnel have been deployed in advance to areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states as well as Pondicherry territory, where the cyclone is expected to strike in the early hours of Thursday.
Fifteen districts in these three regions were already receiving heavy rainfall on Wednesday, which is expected to intensify in the following hours.
The local authorities declared the holiday, closing all activities except the emergency services.
In Pondicherry, the soggy streets and markets were deserted. The territory’s lieutenant governor, 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, ”Ms. Bedi said in a video message posted to Twitter.
In some coastal areas, however, residents were reluctant to abandon their homes and fishing boats, noted an AFP journalist.
In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, authorities said they were closely examining the level of lakes and reservoirs to prevent a repeat of the deadly floods in late 2015 that killed more than 250 people.
Around Lake Chembarambakkam near Chennai, residents living in lower areas have been warned of the risk of overflow.
The eye of the cyclone was due to pass early Wednesday about 175 km northeast of the northern tip of Sri Lanka where fishermen were instructed not to go out to sea. No evacuation order was given in the area. island where heavy rains were expected, especially in the North.
In May, more than 110 people were killed in the passage through eastern India and Bangladesh of powerful Cyclone Amphan, which also caused extensive property damage. The death toll, however, had been far below the thousands of deaths previously caused by comparable cyclones, thanks to improved weather forecasts and developed response plans.