NEW DELHI – A severe cyclone accelerated on Wednesday off the east coast of India in the Bay of Bengal and landed around midnight local time.
Cyclone Nivar, the fourth storm in the northern Indian Ocean this year, is expected to land near Puducherry, near a city about 90 miles south of Chennai’s manufacturing hub in Tamil Nadu.
Both cities were hit by strong winds and heavy rains. Officials began evacuating makeshift coastal homes, sending residents to cyclone shelters and relief camps.
Nivar is expected to land at a speed of about 75 miles per hour, corresponding to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, resulting in heavy rainfall, showers and floods.
In his tweet on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had spoken to top officials in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
“I pray for the safety and well-being of those living in the affected areas,” Mr. Modi said.
Cyclones have become more intense and common in South Asia as sea temperatures are higher due to climate change.
Cyclone Amphan, which has hit South Asia the hardest in decades, was forced to relocate three million people in India and Bangladesh in May as it washed bridges and tore down power lines.
In Chennai, television news has shown that the waves connect the rocky shore and people are walking in knee-deep water. Hundreds of displaced people awaited the storm in Puducherry’s shelters, where the streets were essentially desert, except for some government emergency personnel.
India has more than nine million cases of coronavirus, officials say, social isolation and mask-wearing can be observed in shelters.
The governments of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu have set up relief camps and central communication centers, replaced those responding to the national disaster response, and prescribed public holidays on Wednesdays and Thursdays, ordering the closure of schools.
“All government mechanisms have a role to play,” said Pohucherry’s revenue minister, MOHF Shahjahan.
“We are fully prepared,” Mr. Shahjahan said. “Now it all depends on how nature responds.”