x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cyclone barrels towards Chennai, closing schools

Hundreds of schools have been ordered to close and fishermen told to remain on land as a tropical storm barrels towards Tamil Nadu state.

NEW DELHI // Hundreds of schools have been ordered to close and fishermen told to remain on land as a tropical storm barrels towards Tamil Nadu state.

The wild weather was centred in the Bay of Bengal, 200 kilometres east of Chennai, with winds of about 55kph, the India Meteorological Department said.

Forecasters warned the "cyclonic storm" would make landfall early today.

"We have declared a holiday in all the schools, colleges and government offices in five districts of Tamil Nadu. Fishermen have been warned not to go out into the sea," Jayraman, a government administrator, said.

He said the storm was predicted to intensify before hitting the coast near Chennai, with wind speeds of up to 100kph.

The weather department warned that a "storm surge" was likely to inundate five coastal districts, which have estimated population of 600,000.

Authorities said there was the possibility of extensive damage to power and communication lines.

They were preparing helicopters and boats to be ready for any emergencies.

Ravi Babu, a disaster management official, said that besides existing cyclone shelters, schools and community halls would serve as potential relief camps for any evacuees.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka yesterday allowed thousands of people who had been evacuated ahead of the storm to return home.

It had been expected to hit the island nation but it changed course and moved towards India.