Death toll rises in southern India cyclone

At least 33 people killed after Cyclone Thane hits the south, prompting the evacuation of many coastal villagers.

    Roads blocked by heavy rainfall hampered rescue efforts as the storm lashed the coast [AFP]

    At least 33 people have been killed after Cyclone Thane hit India's southeastern coast, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

    Packing wind speeds of up to 135kph, and accompanied by tidal surges of up to 1.5m, Thane lashed the coast between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu state and the territory of Pondicherry on Friday, causing coastal villagers to move to relief shelters.

    District administrator V Amuvalli in Cuddalore, which bore the brunt of the storm, said the death toll was likely to rise.

    "Approximately 50,000 huts are damaged by the high winds but we will get a clearer picture of the damage later today," he said.

    Most of the deaths occurred due to electrocution and walls collapsing.

    Twenty-two people were killed in Cuddalore, five elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and seven in the former French enclave of Pondicherry.

    Officials said engineers were working to restore phone lines and power supplies that were cut off in some regions during the cyclone, while rail and air traffic had resumed normal service on Saturday.

    Hundreds of people from fishing communities along north Tamil Nadu's coast, and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, were moved to schools set up as relief centres.

    Roads blocked by heavy rainfall hampered rescue efforts.

    The gale pushed a cargo ship aground on the beaches of Chennai, the Press Trust of India said.

    India's cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage.

    In 1999, a "super-cyclone" battered the coast of the eastern state of Orissa for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300kph, killing 10,000 people.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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