Six units of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were moved to Chennai following the tsunami scare on Wednesday evening.

The NDRF battalion stationed at Arakkonam is a specialist force drawn from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and capable of dealing with all types natural and man-made disasters.

Tamil Nadu Director General of Police K. Ramanujam said instructions were given to the Coastal Security Group and local police to keep public away from beaches along the coastal districts. “The Chief Minister has instructed that the people be kept away from beaches in view of the tsunami alert. Six units of NDRF will move into Chennai by evening. A general alert has been sounded along the coastline,” he said.

Minutes after tremors were felt in Chennai and some other parts of the State, top officials went into a huddle trying to reach the Met office and disaster management agencies to know the actual situation, police sources said.

Around 3 p.m., an alert was issued to coastal districts asking villagers living along the coast to move to safety. Fishermen at sea were told to remain in deep waters till Wednesday evening.

In Chennai, the tremors were felt shortly after 2 p.m. Students in many schools were moved from classrooms to playgrounds. Anxious parents who rushed to schools were allowed to take their children home. Immediately after the tremors, traffic congestion was seen in many roads in the city. Mobile phone networks were clogged for hours as the people tried frantically to reach one another.

Commodore Amar K. Mahadevan, Naval Officer-in-charge (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry) told The Hindu: “We were informed that a huge wave might hit the coast around 4.30 p.m. Navy ships are engaged in advising fishermen to remain in deep seas as the impact would be more towards the coast. Several ships are kept on standby for use in the event of any emergency,” he said.

Inspector General and Commander Coast Guard (Easter Region) Satya Prakash Sharma said fishermen at sea were safer than those in the harbour. “We are on alert though there is no input of a tsunami impact…we are in touch with all our detachments. There is no report of any huge tides hitting the coast in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.”

Collectors and Superintendents of Police in coastal districts were told to keep contingency plans ready in the event of a tsunami strike. After a meeting with intelligence agencies, Mr. Ramanujam rushed to the Secretariat for a meeting with the Chief Secretary and others, police sources said.

Many private offices along the East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai told their employees to leave for the day. Staff at the Secretariat here left around 4 p.m.