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31 December 2011

Cyclone kills 16 on India's southern coast

Image: A merchant ship runs aground due to gusty winds in the wake of Cyclone Thane at Marina Beach in Chennai. The cyclone, packing winds of up to 140 kilometres (85 miles) an hour, tore into India's southeastern coast on Friday, killing at least 16 people, a senior official said

A severe cyclone packing winds of up to 140 kilometres (85 miles) an hour tore into India's southeastern coast on Friday, killing at least 16 people, a senior official said.

Cyclone Thane lashed the coast between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu state and the territory of Pondicherry early on Friday, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
"Fourteen persons have died in Tamil Nadu and two in Pondicherry. Though the death toll may not go up drastically, there is a possibility of some more deaths," Marri Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairman of NDMA, told AFP.

The damage and loss of life in these two places was mainly caused by strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surges that led to the collapse of old, rickety buildings.

Reddy hoped the worst was over as the cyclone was showing signs of weakening.

"The cyclonic storm has now weakened into a depression, and its impact should come down," he said, adding that early warning systems had kept casualties in check.

Indian meteorological officials predicted "heavy to very heavy" rainfall over places in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala and Karnataka during the next 24 hours.

Squally winds were likely to blow over north Tamil Nadu during the next three hours before decreasing in intensity gradually.

India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal between April and November, causing widespread damage to homes, livestock and fields.

In 2009, Cyclone Aila tore through southern Bangladesh killing 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres of roads and river embankments, leading to major flooding.

India's Andhra Pradesh state saw its worst cyclone in 1977 in which more than 10,000 people were killed.

- AFP