Chennai: Cyclone Nilam on Wednesday swept across north Tamil Nadu coast near Mahabalipuram, about 55km from here, leaving two people dead, including a crew member of an oil tanker that ran aground off the city.
The crew member drowned after a life boat carrying him and 21 colleagues capsized in choppy waters off Besant Nagar locality in south Chennai in high velocity winds just hours before the cyclone hit the coast. He was brought dead to a hospital while 15 others were rescued.
Cyclone Nilam: In Pictures
They had attempted to escape using the life boat after the ship with 37 crew ran aground having been drifted by high velocity winds. Two others are in a serious condition, Chennai Port Trust officials said.
Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies are searching for the remaining six. The other 15 remained onboard " Pratibha Cauvery", the officials said.
In Puducherry, a 46-year old man slipped into the rough sea and drowned when he, along with his friends, was walking on the pier to see the sea conditions during the cyclonic storm.
It was much relief to the authorities as the cyclone, forecast to be accompanied by wind speeds reaching 110 kmph, made the landfall with a maximum speed of only 65-75 kmph, saving the state of largescale destruction.
About 4,000 people residing close to coast in Mahabalipuram, a famous tourist spot known for its temples and sculptures, were evacuated to safer places, officials said.
"Cyclonic storm Nilam moved north-northwestwards, crossed north Tamil Nadu coast near Mahabalipuram, south of Chennai between 4pm and 5pm today," a weather bulletin said.
The system, which brought heavy downpour in several parts of the state in the last two days, would move northwestwards and weaken into a deep depression during the next six hours.
It would continue to bring more rainfall over north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, even upto 25cm or more, the bulletin said.
"Rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls would also occur over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema and north interior Tamil Nadu during next 24 hours," it added.
Cyclone makes landfall at Mahabalipuram
Destruction of property was yet to be assessed, but the damage may not be similar to the one inflicted by Cylcone Thane in December last year, state government officials said.
"The storm crossed the coast between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Strong winds will continue for another six hours and by Thursday morning everything will calm down," Y.E.A. Raj, deputy director general, India Meteorological Department (IMD) told IANS.
Nevertheless the Tamil Nadu government has declared a holiday for schools and colleges in the coastal districts Thursday.
"We are experiencing strong winds and not rains. We have not received any complaints about loss of life or damage to properties," a police official in Kalpakkam told IANS over phone.
Mamallapuram, a seventh century port city located near here, is a popular tourist destination for its sculptures and is classified as a Unesco world heritage site.
On the other hand, neighbouring Kalpakkam is known as nuclear island with a couple of test reactors of India Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research and two units of Madras Atomic Power Station.
According to Raj wind speed touched 75 kmph here and 65 kmph at Kalpakkam.
Rains, fast winds lash cyclone-hit Andhra Pradesh
The state government had taken several precautionary measures like shifting of around 3,900 people living in low lying areas in Mamallapuram to relief camps.
The absence of rain and relative slow wind speed than expectation helped in a major way to reduce the damage, said a state government official. According to government officials, the extent of damage will be known Thursday.
Chennai Corporation had made arrangements to remove the fallen trees immediately.
Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa reviewed the preventive measures to be taken during the storm while ordering adequate stocks of essential items at relief centres.
Like Tamil Nadu, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh also escaped the Nilam fury. There was no loss of life or property reported from any of the districts in south coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Electricity supply was disrupted in villages under 16 mandals in Nellore district due strong winds. Heavy rains lashed Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur and Chittoor districts.
In Hyderabad, minister for revenue, relief and rehabilitation Raghuveera Reddy, who reviewed the situation with officials Wednesday evening, said the state was not facing any major threat.
The minister, however, said the south coastal districts and the Chittoor district in Rayalaseema region were on alert and taking all measures to prevent loss of life and property. The government deputed three senior officials to Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasam districts to supervise the relief operations.
A team of 47 personnel from National Disaster Response Force were sent to Nellore to take up rescue operations, if required.
The minister said there were no reports of any crop damage. He told reporters that 61 mandals received four cm rainfall during last 24 hours. He said the rains under the influence of the cyclone had benefitted the farmers.
In Tamil Nadu, two rain-related deaths - one in wall collapse and one electrocution - were reported from Villupram and Thiruvannamala districts
Search for missing crew of Pratibha Cauvery on
Operations are on to rescue 15 crew members of ship Pratibha Cauvery that ran aground here as cyclone Nilam hit Tamil Nadu coast Wednesday afternoon, 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."
Earlier, cyclone Nilam crossed the Tamil Nadu coast north of Chennai Wednesday evening between Mamallapuram and Kalpakkam with strong winds battering the area.
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.
A Chennai Port Trust official said Pratibha Cauvery can be used like a life boat in a condition like this and it is not known why the crew came down on another boat.
"We are in the process of gathering information. We also do not know why the crew came down in a life boat," Nilkanth, director at Pratibha Shipping told IANS over phone.
According to a Chennai Port official, Pratibha Cauvery was proceeding to Mumbai after discharging its cargo at the port.
The ship returned as it was called back by the Chennai Port Oct 8, the official said.
He said the ship's engine was not powerful enough to counter the strong winds and it started drifting towards the shore.
According to him, the possibility of the Japanese-built ship sailing back depends on the extent of the damage the vessel has suffered.
According to Chennai Port officials, all the ships at the harbour were asked to go out into the sea as a safety measure.