Chennai/Amrawati: Very severe cyclonic storm 'Vardah', the most intense to have hit the Tamil Nadu capital in two decades, claimed four lives, flattened homes, snapped power, communication lines and threw into disarry rail, road and air traffic as it crossed the coast here, pounding Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram with heavy rain and squall.
Thousands of people were evacuated as roaring wind clocking speed of 100 km an hour uprooted trees, tore off hoardings and toppled cars.
Two fishermen were reported missing off the Andhra Pradesh coast in Kakinada and the Coast Guard has deployed ship for search and rescue operations. Though no major loss of life or property has been reported from Andhra Pradesh so far, heavy rains lashed Chittoor and SPS Nellore district, affecting normal life.
Public transport came to a standstill in Chennai with buses and suburban trains suspended and airport shut. Rail, road and air traffic, official sources said, were likely to be restored by tomorrow.
Most commercial establishments downed shutters in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts.
"After 1994, this is the first very severe cyclonic storm to hit Chennai coast. The storm has completely crossed the coast as expected (this evening)," a senior Met Official here told PTI.
Civic workers used hand-held battery-operated wood cutters to remove hundreds of uprooted trees lying on the roads.
Personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and SDRF were deployed for rescue efforts as army was put on standby.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said in Delhi that four people were killed in the storm in Tamil Nadu, while six teams of NDRF and four of SDRF were engaged in rescue efforts.
About 8,000 people from low-lying areas in north Chennai, Pazhaverkadu in Tiruvallur district and villages off Mamallapuram, in Kanchipuram district were safely evacuated to 95 relief shelters, officials said.
In Andhra Pradesh, over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rain.
Also, separate teams of personnel drawn from the health, sanitary and electricity departments were deployed for relief operations in low-lying areas of the three storm-hit Tamil Nadu districts.
The Met department said the intensity of wind and rainfall would recede after 'Vardah' made landfall near Chennai between 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm.
Coastal regions of northern Tamil Nadu - Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram - continue to be on high alert even as people in low-lying areas were accommodated in relief centres.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to take stock of the situation in the two states and promised all help.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Nadu apprised the Home Minister of the damage caused by the cyclone and steps taken for the rescue and relief.