Operations in Chennai port has come to a halt since afternoon following a cyclone warning by the meteorological department.

For safety reasons, the Chennai Port Trust authorities ordered evacuation of ships from the harbour to the outer anchorage. Other ports in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are also on high alert to meet any eventuality from cyclone Nilam.

This afternoon, flag number 7, which denotes danger, with the cyclone likely to cross the coast over/near to the port was hoisted at the Chennai port. In the morning it was flag no 3, indicating a lower intensity.

Danger signal number six at Ennore port and danger signal number five have been hoisted at Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, and Puducherry ports, according to the Meteorological department bulletin.

Ships at Chennai port have been asked to vacate the harbour and move to outer anchorage. There were eleven ships this afternoon, said a Chennai Port Trust official.

A deep depression over the Bay of Bengal, which is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm, on Tuesday brought heavy rains in many parts of Tamil Nadu. The coastal districts were badly affected, prompting the Government to declare a holiday for schools and colleges.

Chennai, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore and Villupuram received heavy rains since morning.

The depression remained practically stationary and lay centred at 0530 hrs today over southwest Bay of Bengal, about 500 km south-southeast of Chennai and 100 km east-northeast of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, said a bulletin issued by the Meteorological department in Chennai.

The system would intensify further into a cyclonic storm and move northwestwards for some more time and then cross north Tamil Nadu and the adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coast between Nagapattinam and Nellore by Wednesday afternoon or evening, says the bulletin.

There will be widespread rain or thundershowers with isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall with Northeasterly winds of 30-35 knots gusting to 40-45 knots occasionally. The sea will be very rough to high, said the bulletin.

Meanwhile, due to the heavy rains, production at Shasun Pharmaceuticals' manufacturing facilities at Puducherry and Cuddalore were impacted. Only critical operations are running, said S. Abhaya Kumar, Managing Director. The company is gearing up for the storm expected by taking precautionary measures, he said. “We have told employees who come from too far to stay at home. We are providing transportation for workers at nearby areas.”

While S. Gopal, Managing Director of Chemplast Sanmar, does not expect cyclone Nilam to be of the same intensity as Cyclone Thane which hit the TN coast in December 2011, as a precautionary measure its 2.26 lakh tonne a year PVC plant in Cuddalore has been shut down from last night.

Gopal says that since it’s a 24/7 chemical process plant, the company has decided to shut down as a measure of abundant caution. There’s a prescribed protocol to shut down a chemical plant so the company went through the process last night, he said. “Once it crosses, we may do a systems integrity check, if necessary, and restart the plant.”

raja.simhan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 30, 2012)
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