Cyclone barrels towards Chennai on Indian coast
- Published: 31/10/2012 at 05:40 PM
- Online news:
CHENNAI — Schools and ports shut down in southeast India on Wednesday as a cyclone headed towards the coast, with forecasters predicting it could make a direct hit on Chennai in the evening.
Cyclone Nilam was likely to do extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and also uproot large trees, causing power blackouts and communication problems across Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh states, officials said.
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department warned of winds gusting up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour and flooding of low-lying areas due to a sea surge and heavy rain.
It advised residents living in huts along the coast to move to safer areas and ordered fishermen not to go out to sea.
The cyclone was 180 kilometres southeast of Chennai in the Bay of Bengal, according to the latest official update, and was expected to make landfall at about 1200 GMT at some point along a 350-kilometre stretch of coastline.
Chennai, the state capital of Tamil Nadu and home to five million people, is in the middle of the affected zone.
"We have advised all the schools and colleges to remain close for the day," Jayraman, a city administrator who uses only one name, told AFP.
"All maritime activities have been suspended and the government is monitoring the situation closely," he added. "So far, no evacuation process has started."
Local authorities said they were preparing helicopters and boats for any emergency. Existing cyclone shelters, schools and community halls have also been identified to serve as potential relief camps.
Neighbouring Sri Lanka on Tuesday allowed thousands of people who had been evacuated to return to their homes after the storm, which had been expected to hit the island, changed course and moved towards India.
The last cyclone in India struck in the same southeast region in January, claiming 42 lives and leaving a trail of destruction across Tamil Nadu.
India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal between April and November, causing widespread damage to homes, livestock and crops.
Andhra Pradesh saw its worst cyclone in 1977 when more than 10,000 people were killed.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency