35 killed as storm ravages TN coast

Normal life severely hit, several trains cancelled

 At least 35 people, including eight in Puducherry, were killed as the tropical cyclone “Thane” wre­aked havoc along the coastal north Tamil Nadu and Pu­ducherry on land-fall, vi­r­tually paralysing normal life and mauling vital infrastructure.

The “very severe cyclonic storm” over the south-west Bay of Bengal that threatened to hit Tamil Nadu in the last four days, finally crossed the coast early on Friday, amid roaring gusty winds with speeds over 100 kmph. It revived the frightening images of the 2004 ts­u­n­ami that the state had experienced. Raging one-metre tall waves in several places struck fear in coastal settlements on Thursday night. Authorities heaved a sigh of relief when “Thane” crossed the coast between Puducherry and Cuddalore between 6:30 and 7:30 am on Friday, according to S R Ramanan of the Regional Meteorological Centre here.

Chief Minister J Jayalalitha sanctioned Rs 150 crore for extending relief to the affected people and restoring vital infrastructure like power supply and clearing the roadways, after holding an emergency review meeting here with top police officials and departmental heads. “Thane” moved westward of Cuddalore and weakened rapidly into a deep depression. It would further move westward and lose force gradually, Ramanan said. Heavy rain may continue for one more day. Interior districts of Tiruvannamalai and Salem had been warned.

 A silver lining to the dark clouds was that even as the storm persisted with its fury, the two nuclear power reactors at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam, each feeding 150 MW to the grid, operated “safely” as the cyclonic storm passed over, M Sai Baba, spokesperson of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), said from Kalpakkam.

The “fast breeder test reactor” at IGCAR also continued its operation safely, once again proving the “ruggedness of the design of our nuclear power plants,” he said. Only some trees were uprooted in the township.

The Southern Railway cancelled at least five south-bound trains from Chennai on Friday, including the Puducherry Express and rescheduled many others. Many flights in and out of Chennai airport were delayed by hours.

 “It was like a mini-tsunami,” cried several fishermen of Chinnakuppam coastal village North of Chennai after the storm had crossed over. Fishermen there were shell-shocked as they found scores of waves struck their fishing nets and nearly a dozen boats. Similar huge losses to fisherm­en from other parts have been reported.

Cuddalore, Villupuram and parts of Kancheepuram districts and the Union territory of Puducherry bore the brunt of the storm, as thousands of trees were uprooted and hundreds of hutments and semi-permanent dwellings damaged. 

Nearly 6,000 people living in low-lying areas in the coastal districts of Kancheepuram, Cuddalore, Thiruvallur, Villupuram and Nagapattinam besides parts of Chennai had been evacuated to safe places as the waves turned fierce. 

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