With cyclone ‘Thane' set to intensify, triggering heavy rain and gusty winds along the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, the State police and Coast Guard have stepped up surveillance by deploying additional manpower, ships and aircraft.

Special teams of the Tamil Nadu Special Police were sent to the coastal districts of Cuddalore, Villuppuram and Nagapattinam on Thursday. While setting in motion the ‘Standard Operating Procedure,' police have mobilised adequate manpower in vulnerable areas.

“A full alert has been sounded in the coastal districts. We have asked the police to coordinate with other agencies for relief and rescue operations,” a senior police official said.

Asking the Fisheries Department in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to ensure that fishermen do not venture into the sea, the Coast Guard deployed its ships ‘Vigraha' and ‘Vajra' from Paradip and Visakhapatnam to undertake search and rescue operations in the event of any exigency. All Coast Guard Stations along the South-Eastern coast were put on alert since Wednesday, defence sources said.

A Dornier aircraft from Visakhapatnam was deployed to conduct aerial surveillance between Santhapalli and Narsapur (Andhra Pradesh). About 25 fishermen who ventured into the sea in five boats were reported safe. “While four boats reached the Machilipatnam, Krishnapatnam and Nizampatnam coast safely, one boat was reported to be safe and moving towards the Andhra Pradesh coast,” Inspector General and Commander (Coast Guard Region East) S.P. Sharma told The Hindu on Thursday.

Toll-free number

He said fishermen in distress or any person requiring the assistance of Coast Guard could call the toll-free number ‘1554'.

“We have information that all fishing boats along the Tamil Nadu coast that went into the sea have returned safely. Those preparing to enter the sea have been advised not to do so,” he said.

All the three major ports in the city were put on high alert following ‘Thane' storm that is expected to cross Tamil Nadu coast between Chennai and Nagapattinam by early Friday morning.

According to the Port sources, cyclone warning flag number ‘9' was hoisted at Chennai, Ennore and Kattupalli ports. Most of the employees of the Chennai Port were evacuated on Thursday and eight to nine vessels were moved to outer anchorage for safety. Control centres were established on the 9 floor of Chennai Port Trust building and at Signal Station in Ennore.

The Chennai Port Trust officials held an emergency meeting on Thursday to sensitise officials to meet unforeseen events due to the cyclone. Only a few operational staff members were in the harbour. Cranes and major equipment have been secured and container terminal operators functioned with minimum staff. Navy and Coast guard ships have been moved to Jawahar Dock for safety, said a port official.

“All the vessels were evacuated on Wednesday night itself and there are no vessels near the harbour,” an official in the Ennore Port said.