Thousands evacuated in Indian city of Chennai as cyclone nears

ARUN SANKAR / AFP

People living in low lying areas in India's southern city of Chennai have been evacuated and more than 150 relief centres are on standby ahead of a "very severe cyclonic storm".

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said 'Nivar' was likely to cross between "midnight of 25th and early hours of 26th November" and was likely to bring very heavy rainfall.

Areas in and around Chennai witnessed intense spells of rain, accompanied by strong winds on Wednesday.

The cyclone was likely to damage houses and roads, uproot power lines and trees and destroy crops along India's south-east coast, the IMD said.

Edappadi Palaniswami, Tamil Nadu state's chief minister, has declared Wednesday and Thursday as public holidays in some areas, ordered the halting of bus services, advised fishermen not venture to sea and asked people to stay indoors.

Local government officials in Chennai released water from a major reservoir, cleared fallen trees and readied relief centres as they evacuated people from low lying areas.

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