Surrounded by water from three sides, India has suffered many cyclones over the past decades. The Bay of Bengal is especially prone to the development of cyclones during the latter months of the year, especially October and November. The coastal states of Odisha, West Bengal, parts of Andhra Pradesh and the southern state of Tamil Nadu have often been the victims of devastating cyclonic storms.
Most recently, a severe cyclonic storm called ‘Nivar’ was building up in the Bay of Bengal. It was expected to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm by November 25 and move towards the coast of Tamil Nadu, crossing it and Puducherry between Karaikal and Mamallapuram. As the landfall was expected to happen over the coast of Tamil Nadu, the southern state was bracing for the lashes of the storm.
By November 24 early morning, the cyclone storm was situated 450 kms off the borders of Tamil Nadu. Keeping the effects of the cyclone in mind, the meteorological department had predicted wind speeds of 110 kms, starting on November 25 and wind speeds of 120-130 kms per hour during its expected landfall. Although the landfall was expected to happen on November 25, the most severe effects were to be experienced by the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry between November 24- 26.
With heavy rainfall and windspeeds expected, red alerts were issued in the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Fishermen near the coasts of Karaikal and Mamallapuram were warned in advance and asked to evacuate the coastline settlements to avoid death and damage in the area.
The naval headquarters along the coast of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu were on high alert and monitoring the coastal areas to ensure that cyclone guidelines were followed. Naval ships were ready to provide any assistance to the state governments in case of any mishaps at the sea during the cyclonic landfall. Rescue teams, relief teams, helicopters and diving teams were kept ready to meet the challenges during the cyclonic storm.
While deaths could be avoided during the cyclonic storm, Nivar was expected to cause heavy damage to houses in the coastal areas of Chengalpattu, Karaikal, Mamallapuram, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Villupuram. The cyclone was expected to cause damage to thatched houses, roads, overhead powerlines and railways, as well as to standing crops and plantations.
The National Disaster Response Force deployed 50 response teams in three states, including Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh with 12 teams deployed in Tamil Nadu alone. The Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation decided to release helpline numbers for assistance to the people stranded in the expected floods. The Puducherry administration also announced the enforcement of section 144 till 6 am of November 26, 2020 to avoid loss of life and property in the area.
Although Cyclone Nivar could still cause extensive damage to the southern coast of India, solid preparations and defences against the cyclone are expected to minimize loss and destruction in the vulnerable areas.