Cyclone Vardah kills 6, plunges Chennai into darkness, shuts down airport

CHENNAI: Cyclone Vardah howled through Chennai between 2.30pm and 4.30pm on Monday, killing at least six people and maiming the city. Most of the deaths, including that of a three-year-old boy, were due to wall collapses triggered by wind and torrential rain. Hours after the winds that touched 140kmph died down, Chennai was still on its knees, fighting road blocks caused by uprooted trees, and a virtual blackout. “I’ve never seen anything like (this) in my life,” said a popular weather blogger who goes by the name ‘Tamil Nadu Weatherman’, on Facebook. “(It’s) absolute carnage here.” Designated as a “very severe cyclonic storm” and the first to hit Chennai since 1994, Vardah left in its wake a trail of destruction. Thousands of trees – the city corporation counted 2,810 – fell, injuring people, crushing cars and blocking roads and traffic. The airport remained shut since 8am as flights could not land nor take off in gusty winds. Southern Railway cancelled 39 trains and rescheduled more; metro and suburban services were also hit. Schools, colleges and offices were closed. In Teynampet, the cyclone ripped away the facade of a hotel.


Trains of the metro rail, mass rapid transit system and suburban services were also affected. There was a virtual blackout after cables snapped in the wind. In some places, power lines were shut down to prevent accidents. With many feeder lines tripping, power supply was disrupted across the city. The state electricity board officials were able to assess the damage only in the evening after the cyclone passed: it will take a day to restore power to all areas. By 8pm, the corporation, along with the National Disaster Response Force and the city police had cleared 650 uprooted trees and fallen signboards and street lamps. Teams were working overnight and reinforcements were being brought in from other districts. The corporation said by Tuesday morning, the main roads would be cleared. The city had gone to sleep on Sunday with the weatherman’s warning; it woke up to rain and wind that gained strength as the day passed in foreboding twilight. By evening, the Met department recorded 110mm of rain at the city center and 170mm near the airport. Added to the rain since Sunday morning, it totaled 199mm.


Wind speed exceeded 140kmph on Marina beach, and by 4pm, tides were rising above the predicted 1m mark. Fishermen’s huts and dwellings along the shore were swept off, forcing people to scramble to government shelters and nearby buildings. People on the roads were stuck for hours due to diversions and blocks. All suburban services were suspended by 1pm, leaving commuters stranded across the city and its suburbs. Platform roofs at the Chennai beach and Central stations swayed in the wind and one on Beach collapsed. Hundreds of passengers were stuck at Chennai Central station without electricity or charge in their phones even as buses and cabs stopped plying after 1pm. Passengers were unable to even seek shelter in the waiting rooms where the roofs leaked. Shanti Varadarajan, 30, who was waiting to board a train to Bangalore, was stranded at the station after all morning trains were cancelled. “I was there for more than six hours as couldn’t find a cab or a bus to go back home,” she said. A few auto rickshaw drivers, who were willing to ferry passengers, charged double the rate.


Airport director G Chandramouli said from midnight till 8am on Monday, 46 flights departed from the Chennai airport. Twenty seven flights were diverted to other airports and five were cancelled. The last flight to land at Chennai airport was on Monday at 7.50am and it left Chennai around 8.20am. Operation s at the airport were then suspended due to increased wind velocity. “One good thing is that no flight got stranded in cyclonic weather conditions,” said Chandramouli. Operations had not resumed till late Monday night.

82% of state’s ATMs recalibrated

BENGALURU: As many as 82% Karnataka’s ATMs are recalibrated to dispense the new currency. Till November 30, 2016, out of the 16,929 ATMs in the state, 13,921 ATMs were recalibrated. This puts Karnataka in the second highest number in the south, says the finance ministry. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry which together have 24,242 ATMs, now have 18,883 recalibrated machines. Kerala has the highest conversion rate, however, it has a smaller number of 9,070 ATMs. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together have 20,492 ATMs, out of which 16,696 are recalibrated. Officials said priority has been given to ATMs in rural areas as the number is smaller. It takes up to one hour to recalibrate an ATM machine.Recalibration is adjusting the height and width of the cassette, so that it dispenses only one note at a time. This process involves a team of bank staff, engineer from the machine manufacturer, cash management and logistics company personnel.

CBSE asks schools to go cashless from January

Starting January 1, all CBSE-affiliated schools will have to start collecting fee via cashless modes. A short letter from board secretary Joseph Emmanuel to principals has made it clear that there will be no wiggle room for schools. The letter states: “With a view to reduce cash transactions at schools, all CBSE-affiliated schools shall introduce online fee collection or through non-cash mode from the next quarter commencing from January 2017”. As of now, most of the schools offers non-cash modes for fee payment and hence most schools welcomed the decision.


While the letter does not mention anything but it is obvious that the step is in line with the government’s demonetisation decision. The board, in its letter, has focused on the advantages of digital money. The letter states: “The benefits of cashless transactions are enormous and the CBSE has introduced e-payment facilities for collection of fee for examination, affiliation and various activities including payments to its examination functionaries. The board has also been directing its affiliated schools to disburse salary to staff through bank transfers”. Extending the ambit of cashless mode to areas beyond fee payment, the CBSE letter says, “Schools should also make all payments for availing various services, procurements, wages to contractual workers and other transactions via non-cash modes. Schools may interact with the parents during the Parents-Teachers Association meetings to spread awareness about the benefits of non-cash transactions”.

Fire breaks out at Biocon’s research arm Syngene

The fire department said the third and fourth floors were gutted in the accident


BENGALURU: A major fire was reported at Syngene, a sister concern of biopharmaceutical company Biocon, off Electronics City, on Monday evening. No casualties were reported in the blaze, which was caused by chemicals, said officials from the department of fire and emergency services. An official tweet by the department at 8.38pm read: “Chemical fire in Biocon factory: Jigani link road, Electronics City, B’luru – 8 Vehicles from City sent to spot”. Biocon said the fire began around 8pm in one of the Syngene laboratories. Syngene is the contract research arm of Biocon. Though no one was injured, the loss of property is yet to be assessed.


MN Reddi, director general, fire and emergency services, said the blaze was brought under control by 10pm. “Ten fire tenders assisted by advanced aerial platforms were deployed at the spot. The fire broke out in the research and development lab and gutted the third and fourth floors of the building,” he said. Biocon MD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw told TOI: “It is not the Biocon factory. A fire broke out in one of the labs of Syngene, which is a research organization. Luckily, it happened after office hours and no one was hurt. However, by the time the fire was noticed, it had begun to spread. We are yet to ascertain what caused it”.

ATMs go bankrupt again; brace for bank run today

Ahmedabad: With most ATMs staying ‘cashless’ through the three bank holidays, more people are expected to throng local bank branches when they open on Tuesday. Bankers are pinning hopes on a decent supply of currency notes for smooth day’s functioning. Many ATMs in the city ran out of cash and could not be refilled due to the holidays. There were large numbers of people queued up outside the few ATMs that did have cash on Monday. With banks closes, many people had hoped to withdraw cash from ATMs, but most ATMs in Ahmedabad were not operational. “There is likely to be a heavy rush when banks reopen on Tuesday, as a large number of ATMs did not dispense cash for these three days. Some banks have received currency supply, but it is still going to be inadequate to meet demand on Tuesday.


The going will get tough for banks, at least for the first few hours,” said Janak Rawal, general secretary of the MahaGujarat Bank Employees Association (MGBEA). “We have not got cash supply over the last three days. We expect to get some by Monday night or early Tuesday morning. The situation may worsen if we don’t get a timely supply of notes,” added a senior official of a nationalized bank.

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