Chennai: A ship, Prathibha Cauvery, with 37 crew members on board, ran aground following strong winds caused by Cyclone Nilam, which made landfall on the south east coast late on Wednesday evening.
The Chennai port, located on the southeast coast, stopped all cargo operations following the cyclone warning.
The port handles about ten percent of the sea-going traffic passing through India's major ports, covering a variety of cargoes including crude oil, petroleum products and agricultural commodities.
Indian Goast Guard Deputy Inspector General Gurdeep Singh informed on Thursday that the oil tanker had drifted ashore due to strong winds.
"The motor tanker Pratibha Cauvery, which you see on the shore here, is grounded. It was anchored in Chennai port limits since 24 September and due to rough weather it started drifting and got grounded at 14:30 hours yesterday. We have advised the crew to be on board and we will try to come and rescue you from the seaward side," said Singh
The ship is currently on Besant Nagar beach in South Chennai and has two tonnes of light diesel oil and 355 tonnes of furnace oil.
Giving details about the rescue operation, Singh said one crew member was dead and five others were still missing.
"They have lowered the boat out of which 17 people were saved yesterday and 15 people were stranded on board and which we have saved in the morning with the help of helicopters. Out of those 32 people, who are saved, one person is dead and two are admitted in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and the remaining others are healthy. Five people are missing and the search is on," said Singh
Relief and rescue teams have been deployed across the country's southern states to combat the destruction expected from the storm.
Heavy rains all through the night due to the depression had thrown life out of gear in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Continuous rainfall has already caused flooding in several parts of the district as people brace for the storm that is likely to cause extensive damage by destroying standing crops and temporary housing settlements.
Administrative officials have identified the vulnerable areas that are likely to be worst affected from the catastrophe and have already deployed rescue teams.
Singh said helicopters have been deployed to search for the missing crew from south Chennai to north Chennai.
"This morning we have saved Coast Guard Ship Rajshree and we have two helicopters, who are searching from south Chennai to north Chennai for the remaining five crew, who are still missing," said Singh.
Rows of fishing trawlers were docked near the shores as fishermen abandoned their boats along with the nets on the beach and flocked to safer locales after receiving warning from the meteorological department not to venture out to the seas.
Strong winds measuring above 50 km/hour could be seen tilting trees of palm and coconut planted along side the coast and residential areas.
The north Indian Ocean usually sees about five cyclones a year, about 5-6 percent of all cyclones, with October-November and May-June seeing the most severe ones.
Chennai handled just over 27 million tonnes of traffic in April-September, according to the Shipping ministry.
Meanwhile, 'Sandy', one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.(ANI)