State officials issued a tsunami alert along the coast on Sunday after an earthquake off the Indonesian coast in the morning, but withdrew it later in the day.
Fishermen were advised not to put out to sea and police cleared the beaches, turning back thousands of Sunday visitors. But as the day progressed without incident, the advisory was withdrawn later in the afternoon.
A bulletin issued by the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, said the earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale off the west coast of northern Sumatra around 11.30 in the morning.
Senior authorities in the State convened a meeting and got in touch with INCOIS officials. Though the bulletin said there was no tsunami threat along the Indian coast, the seven coastal districts in Tamil Nadu were advised to take steps to avoid any untoward incident.
In Chennai, beaches wore a deserted look as police evacuated thousands of people from around 2 p.m. In Cuddalore district, a tsunami alert was sounded in the 57 coastal villages. Nineteen of the 20 cyclone shelters were kept open and ambulances and health care services were kept ready, Collector P. Seetharaman said. A barricade was placed about a kilometre from Silver Beach to prevent people from going there.
Pilgrims bathing at Agnitheertha Kadarkarai in Ramanathapuram district were asked to move to safe areas and alerts were sounded in Dhanushkodi and Arichamunai, on the tip of Rameswaram island. Collector T.N. Hariharan instructed police and revenue officials to alert fishermen and pilgrims.
In Nagapattinam district, the panchayatars of the fishermen community took active part along with fisheries and revenue officials in transmitting information to all 53 fishing habitations in the district.
In Puducherry, District Collector G. Ragesh Chandra said information was sent through the police and revenue and fisheries officials through VHF wireless sets to caution people living near the coast. Noting that the Centre's directive was that there could be a rise in the level of sea water for almost a metre, he said the police had been asked to keep guard on the beach in the evening as a precautionary measure.
In Chennai, as a result of the alert, the ‘Kodai Thiruvizha' organised by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation attracted 40,000 people as beachgoers turned to Island Grounds for entertainment.