Cyclone Vardah: 18 people killed in Tamil Nadu, telephone services crippled

Chennai:Eighteen people were killed in six districts of Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents linked to Cyclone Vardah that crossed the coast, as Chief Minister O Panneerselvam held a meeting of top officials on Tuesday to speed up work to ensure return of normalcy in storm-hit regions.

The government said it is taking all steps to ensure that the jammed mobile phone networks are restored and a meeting of telecom operators and officials was held.

“A total of 18 persons were killed in rain-related incidents linked to Cyclone Vardah,” a top Tamil Nadu government official monitoring the situation told PTI.

He said five each were killed in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts. Four persons died in Kancheepuram district, one each in Villupuram and Nagapattinam districts and two in Tiruvannamali district, the officials added. All these deaths were in the revenue districts.

He said as expected districts like Tiruvannamalai, Vellore and the Western belt of Dharmapuri too witnessed heavy rains that began with the commencement of the cyclone Vardah’s landfall.

“Chief Minister Panneerselvam held a meeting of top officials today. Our priority is to restore power supply which has been hit due to fallen trees, clear clogged roads which have fallen trees,” the official said.

He said traffic has already been cleared in all arterial roads in all of the affected districts and efforts were now on to clear the roads and restore power in other neighbourhoods.

“TANGEDO (State-run power undertaking) itself has deployed about 4,000 personnel to ensure quick restoration of power supply,” he said.

Personnel from multiple government departments including Revenue, Police, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and other state agencies from Ariyalur, Perambalur, Tiruvallur, Cuddalore, Salem and Thanjavur districts were being deployed to handle the situation in the cyclone-hit regions, he said.

On the number of people now housed in relief centres, he said more than 13,000 people are being sheltered in over 100 centres. All vulnerable areas were identified in advance and teams of officials are on the job, he said.

To a question on clogged mobile phone networks, he said a meeting of telecom officials and operators was being held to address the situation and ensure expeditious return of normalcy.

Authorities provided food to stranded passengers in many locations and even buses were arranged for the passengers to ferry them to nearby destinations, including Chennai.

Nearly 100 buses were arranged at different stations to facilitate stranded passengers from destinations such as Sholingur and others on the Chennai Egmore-Chengelpet routes to reach Chennai, Southern Railway said.

Trains on suburban MMC-Gummidipoondy and Egmore-Tambaram sections started running, but only ‘skeletal’ services were being operated, they added.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Agency (SDMA) said power supply was being restored based on transmission and distribution network clearance in the affected districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallore.

“Electricity Update!! More than 3,000 personnel are working for restoring power. It takes time. It will be restored ASAP,” SDMA said in a tweet.

Manpower from other districts with power saws and NDRF teams were also deployed to clear uprooted trees, it said in a series of tweets.

In another notification, it said, “power supply was partly restored in Mambalam, Kodambakkam, KK Nagar, High Court, Ambattur, Anna Nagar, Mambakkam, Royapettah” in Chennai.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Eastern region said it has taken up extensive search and rescue operations following cyclone ‘Vardah’ having made landfall near Chennai on Monday.

In an official release, the Coast Guard said it launched extensive search and rescue operation to assist stranded fishing boats on the Bay of Bengal.

“Coast Guard is maintaining close liaison with the state Fisheries Department at Chennai and Andhra Pradesh and also at various ports and harbours,” it said.

Coast Guard’s Chetak helicopters and Dornier aircrafts were pressed into search and rescue operations along the coast of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and South Andhra Pradesh.

A Coast Guard team is closely associated with the disaster management group to provide all required assistance for providing rescue and relief, it added.

Telecommunication network services were hit the most by cyclone Vardah that barrelled through the city yesterday, leaving many people without any means to contact their near and dear ones.

Mobile services, including of Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, were affected in the city and its neighbouring districts, bringing back memories of the deluge last year.

BSNL landlines were operating at some places but its network services were disrupted.

Several people took to Twitter expressing anguish over the disruption of services.

Telecommunication companies could not be contacted for a comment. However, the state government has asked them to restore their “full network” at the earliest.

“All telecom companies are told to restore their full network as quickly as possible and its being monitored,” State Disaster Management Agency said in a tweet.