HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Eight people were dead as Tropical Storm Michaung began making landfall along India’s southeastern coastline Tuesday, bringing with it torrential rains and strong winds, officials said.
The cyclone started crossing the coastline of Andhra Pradesh state with maximum sustained winds of 90-100 kph (56-62 mph) and gusts up to 110 kph (68 mph), said Sunanda Sharma, an official at the state's Cyclone Warning Center.
“It will take three hours for the entire system to cross the coast and complete the landfall,” she said, adding that there could be a storm surge and more heavy showers in the next 24 hours before the storm weakens.
Another state in the south, Tamil Nadu, experienced days of heavy rains in the lead-up to the storm. Downpours triggered accidents that led to at least eight deaths across four vulnerable districts in recent days, said C. Muthukumaran, a disaster management official in the state.
In the capital city of Chennai, rain from the storm's outer reaches caused walls to collapse as it uprooted trees and submerged roads and cars in knee-deep waters.
Videos on Monday showed water streaming onto the city’s airport tarmac, forcing authorities to temporarily shut it down and cancel flights. The downpours have since begun to recede, allowing them to reopen the airport and resume services, but many parts of the city remained flooded Tuesday.
Rains also pounded parts of Odisha state in the east, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or severe damage.
In Andhra Pradesh, where the storm began making landfall near Ongole district, officials shut down schools and evacuated more than 9,000 people from coastal and low-lying areas. No deaths were reported.
Parts of the state saw as much as 390 millimeters (15.4 inches) of rain Tuesday morning before the storm closed in along its coastline, putting officials on high alert as the gusty winds uprooted trees and damaged crops. India's Meteorological Department forecasted that rains could continue over the next few days before subsiding. Michaung is listed as a Severe Cyclonic Storm in the department's cyclone classification system due to its windspeed.
Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, authorities have set up thousands of relief camps in coastal areas as the teams of the National Disaster Response Force and other agencies sent in rescuers with boats to evacuate hundreds of people stranded on the roads and inside homes that had filled with floodwaters. Officials, who declared a public holiday in districts affected by the storm, urged residents to stay indoors.
In June, rain pelted the shores of western India and southern Pakistan as Cyclone Biparjoy pushed into the coast, prompting both countries to move more than 100,000 people to shelters.
India’s coasts are no stranger to devastating cyclones, but changing climate patterns have caused them to become more intense, making preparations for natural disasters more urgent.