Chennai: With cyclone Gaja approaching the coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and expected to make a landfall between Cuddalore and Pamban on Thursday evening, the Tamil Nadu government said it had deployed disaster response teams in the coastal districts, fishermen had been advised not to venture out into the sea, and dams across the state had been put on high alert.

District collectors of Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Ramanathapuram, Cuddalore, Pudukottai and Nagapattinam have declared holiday for schools and colleges in their respective districts.

Karaikal, which falls under Puducherry administration, is also on alert. Puducherry chief minister V. Narayanasamy held a review meeting in Karaikal on Wednesday and directed the district authorities to keep stocks of relief materials.

Nine teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Tamil Nadu and two in Puducherry. Seven teams of the state government’s disaster response force are also deployed, according to revenue minister R B Udhayakumar.

The cyclonic storm is likely to move west-southwestwards and intensify into a “severe cyclonic storm" during the next 24 hours. While moving west-southwestwards further, it is likely to weaken gradually on Thursday and cross the Tamil Nadu coast between Pamban and Cuddalore as a cyclonic storm on Thursday evening, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

It was earlier forecast that the cyclone would cross the coast on Thursday afternoon.

The cyclone was expected to cross the coast with a wind speed of 80-90 kilometre per hour (kmph) gusting to more than 100 kmph, said S. Balachandran, regional director of the IMD.

“Rainfall in most places with heavy to very heavy in a few places over Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Extremely heavy falls at isolated places is also likely to occur over Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Thoothukudi and Ramanathapuram districts. Scattered heavy to very heavy rain is likely to occur over coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry," said a bulletin from the IMD.

Over 15 train services have been curtailed or cancelled.

On Tuesday the minister had said over 200 medical teams, 300 mobile medical teams and 315 veterinary teams were on standby. He added that power generators, earth movers, pump sets and rescue boats were also ready for deployment.

On Tuesday, the Central Water Commission had issued an advisory to keep dams in the state on high alert.

“Extremely heavy rainfall in the catchment area is sufficient to fill them up and lapse time between rainfall and peak inflow can be less than 24 hours and, in some cases, it can be as low as 6-12 hours," said the advisory note addressed to Tamil Nadu government.

It also said that round the clock vigil was needed in all dams, especially the ones that were small and medium-sized.

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