Thousands flee as storm hits south India

2012-10-31 17:23
The Indian ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground, reportedly due to strong winds on the Bay of Bengal coast in Chennai, India. (Arun Sankar K, AP)

The Indian ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground, reportedly due to strong winds on the Bay of Bengal coast in Chennai, India. (Arun Sankar K, AP)

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Chennai - More than 100 000 people were evacuated from their homes on Wednesday as a tropical storm slammed into southern India from the Bay of Bengal, officials said.

Rain lashed the region and strong winds uprooted trees in some places. Weather officials said the storm had maximum winds of 75km/h after making landfall.

A storm surge of up to 1.5m was expected to flood low-lying areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states, the India Meteorological Department said.

It said heavy to very heavy rain was expected over parts of the states during the next 24 hours. Fishermen were asked to stay at shore until Thursday.

An oil tanker with 37 crew ran aground off Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. Coast guard officers were evacuating the crew and searching for some whose lifeboat reportedly capsized in the choppy waters, it said. Officials were not immediately available for comment.

State authorities turned 282 schools into relief centres in Chennai. The city's port halted cargo operations, PTI said. Twenty-three ships were moved to safer areas.

About 150 000 people were moved to shelters in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh state, district official B Sridhar said.

In Sri Lanka, authorities said two people were killed and thousands displaced due to heavy rain and strong winds from the storm.

Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Centre said 4 627 people across the island nation had been displaced by flooding, while 56 were evacuated in the central region because of threats of landslides. One woman died on Tuesday after a tree branch fell on her, while another person was killed in flooding, the agency said. Floods also damaged about 1 000 houses, it said.

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