By Sudarshan Varadhan
CHENNAI (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying areas of the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu ahead of a cyclone expected to make landfall in the early hours of Thursday.
Cyclone Nivar, labelled a category 1 "severe cyclonic storm" on a scale from 1 to 5 by Tropical Storm Risk, was likely to damage houses, uproot power lines and trees and destroy crops along India's southeast coast, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
"Over 145,000 people have been shifted to 1,516 relief camps across the state as a precaution," R.B. Udhayakumar, Tamil Nadu's disaster management minister, told Reuters.
Edappadi Palaniswami, Tamil Nadu state's chief minister, has
declared Wednesday and Thursday public holidays in some areas, advised fishermen not venture out to sea and asked people to stay indoors.
The districts of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, located south of Chennai on the state's coast, accounted for the most number of evacuations, together totalling nearly 89,000 people, Udhayakumar said.
Areas in and around the state's capital Chennai witnessed intense spells of rain and strong winds on Wednesday.
Many companies in Chennai, home to a flourishing automobile industry and dubbed the "Detroit of South Asia", shut operations on Wednesday.
Government officials in Chennai released water from a
major reservoir and cleared fallen trees. Vessels in the city's port have been moved to sea and port operations will likely remain shut until the cyclone has passed, a senior port official said.
Chennai's airport will remain closed at least until 7 a.m. (0130 GMT) on Thursday, India's aviation minister said in a post on Twitter.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Alexander Smith and Nick Macfie)