Cyclone Vardah hits Indian city of Chennai

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Indian resident stand near debris on a street in Chennai as Cyclone Vardah approaches the Indian coast on December 12, 2016. India on December 12 started evacuating thousands of people from fishing villages as Cyclone Vardah barrelled towards its southeastern coast at speeds of more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour. / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Tropical cyclone Vardah, the first hurricane-strength storm to hit the Bay of Bengal this season, has struck the coastal Indian city of Chennai.

The winds at landfall on Monday were around 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour), making Vardah equal to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The storm uprooted trees, overturned cars and did extensive damage to buildings as it tore across the city. At least two people have died, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.

It has now moved inland, bringing gusty winds and torrential rainfall to the interior portions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states.

Prior to the storm’s landing, Chennai already was pounded with heavy rain and winds.

The Indian Meteorological Department has issued heavy rain warnings for the whole of southern India. Fisherman have been told not to take their boats out for two more days.

Schools closed, employees told to work from home
Chennai, a city on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, is the country’s second largest financial hub after Mumbai.

Vardah could also take a heavy toll on the country’s agricultural sector, destroying banana plantations, papaya groves and rice paddies.

According to local media reports, Vardah has prompted schools and colleges to close in Chennai, Kancheepuram, and Tiruvallur districts and in the coastal areas of Viluppuram district, in the state of Tamil Nadu.

India’s labor department has also issued an advisory instructing companies to allow employees to work from home.

More than 170 relief camps have been set up in Chennai and several National Disaster and Reponse Force (NDRF) teams have been deployed to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, according Krishna Kumar, a spokesman from the NDRF.

Tropical cyclone Vardah is India’s strongest storm since October 2014, when cyclone Hudhud moved into Andhra Pradesh, claiming over 100 lives and causing $3.4 billion in damage.

Vardah could also hit fishing villages located along the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.