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BENGALURU : The Tamil Nadu government has declared a public holiday on Thursday across 13 districts, including Chennai, in view of the powerful cyclone that was expected to make a landfall around midnight on Wednesday.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Nivar, a severe cyclone over the Bay of Bengal, was set to hit the coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with winds gusting at 145km per hour, accompanied by very heavy rains.

“We expect the wind speed to reach a maximum 120-130km per hour, extending to 145km per hour. A red alert has been issued all across Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and parts of Andhra Pradesh," said Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general, IMD.

“Cyclone Nivar is gradually intensifying. It could cause structural damage, uprooting of trees, damage to thatched and tin houses, and damage to banana and paddy crops. The highest impact will be in Puducherry and Karaikal," he said.

For the first time after the 2015 floods, the Chembarambakkam reservoir, the source of Chennai’s drinking water requirements, neared its maximum capacity and was partially opened on Wednesday.

During the floods, the abrupt release of water from the reservoir had flooded the thickly-populated catchment area of Adayar lake. But, this time, the state authorities are taking every precaution, including evacuation of families from low-lying areas.

“As water from Chembarambakkam lake will reach Adyar river, the residents of low-lying areas close to Adyar river have been requested to go to the nearby relief centres and stay safe," the Greater Chennai Corporation tweeted from its official handle on Wednesday.

The discharge from the reservoir was increased from 1,000 cusecs in the afternoon to 9,000 cusecs by night.

Cyclone Nivar (light in Persian) is stronger than the last major cyclone to have hit Chennai in 2016. On Wednesday evening, it was about 300km southeast of Chennai, and was expected to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm, said the Regional Meteorological Centre.

The tidal waves it can generate will be about 1-1.5 metres height above the astronomical tide and is very likely to inundate the low-lying areas of north coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry near the place of the landfall, the IMD said.

The National Disaster Response Force has put 22 teams comprising 800 officers on standby in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, said ANI.

The Southern Railways said it has cancelled 12 trains and partially cancelled 11 trains due to the cyclone. Airline operations at the Chennai airport were also suspended for 12 hours from 7pm on Wednesday to 7am on Thursday, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said.

Several parts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry faced power outrage and a series of destruction, including flooded roads and uprooted trees.

More than 1 lakh people have been evacuated in Tamil Nadu and 2,000 more were moved to safer spots in Puducherry, said S.N. Pradhan, director general of the NDRF.

Rhik Kundu from New Delhi contributed to this story.

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