Chennai – Cyclone Vardah lashed coastal areas in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Monday, killing two people and forcing thousands to leave their homes.
The severe cyclone brought heavy rains and winds with speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour as it made landfall near Pulicat, some 50 kilometres north of the state capital, Chennai.
“Two people died in the initial hours of the storm. This includes a fisherman who ventured into the seas and a girl who was killed when her house collapsed,” senior disaster management official K Latha said.
Hundreds of trees and electricity pylons were uprooted and vehicles damaged across three districts.
An estimated 17,500 people living in low-lying coastal areas were evacuated in Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh.
“The conditions will remain severe for the next few hours until Vardah completes landfall. After that the system will lose its intensity and weaken by midnight,” Indian Meteorological Department official M Mohapatra told reporters.
The region was experiencing widespread rainfall on Monday, with schools, markets and offices closed in Chennai and other coastal areas. Teams from the army and national disaster management authority were involved in relief and rescue operations.
Chennai, India’s fourth largest city, would be the “worst affected” by the flooding, weather officials said. The metropolis was due to receive 20 centimetres of rainfall through Monday.
Trains were suspended in the region and more than 50 flights were cancelled, diverted or delayed at Chennai airport, broadcaster NDTV reported.
According to US space agency NASA, cyclone Vardah evolved out of the same tropical storm that caused widespread flooding in Thailand last week, killing 14 people.
The storm later gained intensity over the Bay of Bengal, where it hit India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,800 tourists over the weekend.