December 30, 2011 – Cyclone Thane Makes Landfall in Southern India: Cyclone Thane ripped through coastal districts in southern India Friday, killing at least 33 people and damaging thousands of homes. The storm over the Bay of Bengal made landfall between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu state and the federally administered territory of Pondicherry Friday morning, the Indian Meteorological Department said. Large areas were flooded, trees and power lines were uprooted and transportation was disrupted after heavy rains and winds with speeds up to 140 kilometers per hour (87 MPH) battered the area. Twenty-one people died in Cuddalore – either crushed under collapsed houses and fallen trees, or electrocuted by downed wires, officials told the IANS news agency. Five people died in three other districts of Tamil Nadu, while seven people were killed in Pondicherry, which was cut off from neighboring areas as trees blocked key highways. Heavy rains also lashed Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of Cuddalore; which was one of the worst-hit regions. Badly damaged roads made it difficult for disaster management teams to reach fishing villages. An estimated 5,000 fishermen’s homes were damaged in the region.
In Pondicherry, thatched huts and slums were destroyed. “We don’t know what is happening in the outside world. Even mobile phone signals are not working properly. All we hear is the howling of fierce wind. Many trees have fallen down,” Pondicherry resident S. Ravikumar told the IANS news agency. As 1.5 meter high waves (5 feet) lashed the shore, fishermen were advised not to venture into the rough sea. Train operations in the region were suspended, and thousands of people living in low-lying areas were evacuated to 49 cyclone shelters, IANS reported. Crops on about 25,000 acres of land in the Cauvery delta region are estimated to have been damaged by the cyclonic winds. Later Thursday, the meteorological department withdrew its cyclone warning and said the storm had weakened rapidly into a tropical storm. It warned, however, that there would be; heavy to very heavy; rains accompanied by fierce winds in parts of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and the other southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala until Saturday morning (December 31st).
Cyclones that form frequently over the Bay of Bengal bring widespread destruction and flooding to India’s southern and eastern coasts. In 2010, 27 people died when Andhra Pradesh was battered by Cyclone Laila. More than 1,600 people were killed as storms hit Andhra Pradesh in November 1996.
The Master of Disaster