1 lakh evacuated as TN, Puducherry brace for very severe Cyclone Nivar; snowfall in J-K, HP

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New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) Torrential rains accompanied with gusty winds lashed parts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Wednesday leaving several areas inundated as very severe Cyclone 'Nivar' hurtled towards the coast, while cold conditions prevailed in north India with Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh witnessing fresh snowfall.

The national capital and its neighbouring cities, dealt with air quality in the severe category due to slow winds. Stubble burning accounted for two per cent of Delhi's PM2.5 pollution on Wednesday.

Cyclone Nivar has intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and lay about 160 km off Chennai and 85 km from Puducherry. The storm was likely to cross the coast between Karaikal in Puducherry and Mamallapuram during Wednesday midnight and early hours of Thursday with a wind speed of 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph, the IMD said.

Under its influence, coastal and north interior Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kariakal regions are likely to receive heavy showers. South coastal Andhra Pradesh is also likely to witness showers at most places.

Over one lakh people have been taken to safety from the coastal areas while power supply was disconnected in vulnerable areas as a precautionary measure.

The National Disaster Response Force has earmarked a total of 50 teams, with 30 being deployed on the ground in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami declared Thursday a public holiday for 13 districts. Later, a government order included three more districts considering the safety of people in view of the cyclone.

The Chennai international airport has been closed till Thursday 7 am, while the Railways cancelled over a dozen special trains on November 25 and 26 scheduled to either originate from and terminate in the southern states.

Due to heavy rains ahead of the cyclone, the gates of Chembarambakkam, one of the key drinking water sources of Chennai, were opened for the first time in five years, releasing a torrent of surplus water into the Adyar river.

'The Adyar River could carry up to 60,000 cusecs and people need not have any apprehensions. All precautions have been taken,' Chief Minister K Palaniswami said.

Delayed opening of the reservoir in 2015 after very heavy rains was seen as a trigger for the devastating floods that hit the city then, though the government had rejected it.

Chennai and its suburbs, which received heavy overnight rains, continued to witness intermittent showers coupled with strong winds with low-lying areas getting inundated and water entering houses in such localities.

Prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 have been clamped in Puducherry region from Tuesday 9 pm to Thursday 6 am due to the incoming cyclone.

All state government offices and educational institutions that were to function to help students appearing for public examinations were declared closed for Thursday. Wednesday was a public holiday. However, departments that are to provide essential services functioned as usual.

People living in low lying areas or close to the sea shore were being evacuated to safer places or to relief camps. A total of 200 relief camps have been established in Puducherry region and all those accommodated there were subjected COVID-19 tests.

Meanwhile, cold conditions continued in north India due to a western disturbance while rainfall occurred at isolated places.

Owing to overcast conditions, the national capital recorded maximum and minimum temperatures at 24.4 degrees Celsius and 10.4 degrees Celsius respectively while the air quality deteriorated to 'severe' category due to slow winds.

In Rajasthan too, night temperatures went up a few notches due to a western disturbance, with Dabok recording the lowest temperature in the state at 9.4 degrees Celsius.

Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Kota and Bundi recorded their respective minimums at 11.2 degrees Celsius, 11.5 degrees Celsius, 11.6 degrees Celsius and 11.8 degrees Celsius.

The rise in the temperatures was because of a cloudy weather due to a western disturbance, which will pass by Thursday, according to the weather department.

Intermittent snowfall and rains continued at most places in Kashmir for the third day on Wednesday with the weather office forecasting mainly dry weather from Thursday till next week.

Many areas in the plains, including Srinagar, were lashed by rains.

The ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir recorded four inches of fresh snow during the night, while Pahalgam in south Kashmir, recorded around one inch of snow.

There are reports of snowfall in the higher reaches, including the Sonamarg-Zojila axis on the Srinagar-Leh road which connects the Valley with Ladakh.

Cold conditions persists in Himachal Pradesh with fresh snowfall in higher reaches of the state while sonme other parts received rains.

Lahaul and Spiti's administrative centre Keylong the coldest place in the state at minus 2.5 degrees Celsius, while Kinnaur's Kalpa recorded a low of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius. Shimla recorded a low of 6.5 degrees Celsius.

The minimum temperatures in Haryana and Punjab hovered above normal limits while day temperatures dropped by up to seven notche and hovered between 19-21 degrees Celsius.

Cold conditions prevailed in isolated parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh with shallow to moderate fog was observed in some areas.

There was no significant change in the day temperatures, with Jhansi and Fatehgarh both recording a high of 27.4 degrees. Churk was the coldest place in the state with a minimum temperature of 5.6 degrees Celsius. PTI TEAM NSD NSD