Cyclone crosses Tamil Nadu coast, ship runs aground in Chennai

Extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and minor damage to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large avenue trees is feared.

CHENNAI: Cyclone Nilam crossed the Tamil Nadu coast north of Chennai Wednesday evening between Mamallapuram and Kalpakkam with strong winds battering the area, said an official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The cyclone expected to weaken gradually into a deep depression.

Speaking to IANS, the official said: "The cyclone started crossing the coast around 4.45 p.m. and it would take around one or two hours to cross the coast."

According to him, the wind speed was currently at 65 kmph and would touch around 100-110 kmph.

Cyclone effect: Ship runs aground in Chennai

While Cyclone Nilam crossed the Tamil Nadu coast, strong winds have made the ship Pratibha Cauvery run aground here.

Speaking to IANS, a port official said: "There are 37 people onboard Pratibha Cauvery. It ran aground today (Wednesday) around noon. It has no cargo and weighs 28,741 DWT (deadweight tonnage)."

Operations are on to rescue 15 crew members, said an official, even as a person died in the mishap and the fate of six people was not immediately known..

Speaking to IANS, the Indian Coast Guard official said: "Search and rescue operations are on for the crew who decided to abandon the ship."

The official said that still "fifteen members of the crew are on the ship". Efforts have been stepped up to rescue them.

The Pratibha Cauvery belonging to Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping with 37 member crew ran aground here.

For reasons yet not known, out of these 37 people, 22 members of the crew decided to abandon the ship in a life boat, officials of Coast Guard and the Chennai Port Trust told IANS.

Unfortunately the life boat capsized with the crew. Out of the 22 who left the ship on the life boat, 16 people were rescued and admitted to an hospital. The fate of six people is not known, officials said.

"Sixteen people were brought here out of which one was brought dead. Three people are in the intensive care unit (ICU)," S. Narasimhan, senior executive, patient care told IANS.

After being stationary for a long time over Bay of Bengal, Cyclone 'Nilam' today intensified into a severe storm with extremely heavy rains expected to lash the coastal towns in Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh.

Extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and minor damage to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large avenue trees is feared.

The cyclone is expected to cross between Puducherry and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh close to Chennai this evening.

Many parts of Nellore and Prakasam districts in south coastal Andhra and Chittoor district in Rayalaseema region have been receiving heavy rain accompanied by strong winds since Tuesday night, officials said.

According to Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning centre, Nilam would cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coast between Puducherry and Nellore Wednesday evening.

The Met Office has warned fishermen against venturing out into the sea. It also advised people in coastal areas to remain indoors and take all precautions at the time of the storm's landfall.

Gale wind speeds reaching 90 to 100 kmph and even higher would hit north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts during next 24 hours, according to the warning.

Storm surges of about 1 to 1.5 metres over the astronomical tide are likely to inundate low-lying areas of Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur of Tamil Nadu as well as Nellore.

The education department has declared a holiday for educational institutions in Chittoor and Nellore districts. Roads and low-lying areas were inundated - this included the temple town of Tirupati in Chittoor district.

Warning signals were put out at Machilipatnam, Krishnapatnam, Nizampatnam and Vadarevu ports.