Puducherry/Cuddalore: Cyclone Thane passed by the Tamil Nadu coast early on Friday, killing 19 and throwing life in Cuddalore and the neighbouring Puducherry completely out of gear. Trees were uprooted, traffic signals ripped off their bases, shop signboards torn apart and tossed about. Broken glass from street lights, shards from window panes and other debris remained suspended on inundated roads. Mobile services experienced outage only to be restored much later in the day.
12 persons died in Cuddalore in incidents of wall and tree collapse and electrocution, officials said. A 45-year old man of Vanarampet village was among seven people killed in Puducherry. Authorities in Puducherry had wittily cut off power at 2 AM to prevent deaths from electrocution.
Cuddalore district has been the most affected, with damaged roads rendering it difficult for rescue teams including those from National Disaster Response Force and Fire and Rescue Services to reach the cyclone hit fishing hamlets.
District collector Amuthavalli said even as communication lines remained affected, over 5000 houses of fishermen had been damaged.
On Friday morning, Cyclone Thane killed 19 and threw life in Puducherry and Cuddalore out of gear.
Even in Pudicherry, thatched huts of fishermen and wooden frames in slum areas were completely destroyed. Earlier on Thursday, special teams were deputed to the coasts to ensure no one ventured out in those areas. The low casualty figures in Puducherry are being attributed to this proactive step of the administration.
Uprooted trees and inundated roads have cut off Puducherry and Cuddalore from the rest of the adjoining regions. An official said around 400 trees had been uprooted on the Cuddalore-Chidambaram road alone, resulting in suspension of vehicular movement.
After the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday said that Cuddalore was most likely to witness the landfall of Cyclone Thane early on Friday morning, the CNN-IBN team of Meenakshi Mahadevan and cameraman Sarvanan left Chennai in an Outdoor Broadcast (OB) van. When they reached Cuddalore on Thursday at 4 pm, it had already started drizzling.
But at around 8.30 PM, the Met office came up with a revised forecast of the cyclonic route. They said that the landfall would happen somewhere between Nagapattinam and Chennai. Since Puducherry was closer to this area, the journalists shifted base there.
In the words of Meenakshi, “At 2 AM, everything started shaking, windows were falling off, glass panes were shattering. As I opened the window of my sea-facing room, I virtually felt the sea on my face.”
The cyclonic winds blowing at 140 km per hour did not stop till 9.00 am. They were at their strongest (150-160 km per hour) between 6 AM and 7.30 AM.
BP Yadav, Director, IMD, said, "The cyclone has weakened one stage from very severe to severe. The next 12 hours are very crucial. After that, it will weaken further. Heavy rainfall may continue in north Tamil Nadu, even in Kerala, however, the impact won't be severe.
"The region worst affected is north Tamil Nadu. An advisory has been issued to fishermen to go out to the sea. Inland people should avoid venturing out as the strong winds might uproot trees and disrupt power lines."
Heavy rains lashed Chennai on Friday morning raising the sea level and the height of the tidal waves. Flights were disrupted due to the cyclonic storm with four international services, including those bound for Kuwait and Kuala Lumpur, cancelled.
For the residents of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, Cyclone Thane brought back memories of the 2004 Tsunami when giant tidal waves swept aside entire habitations, killing thousands of people. Ironically, that had also happened towards the end of December.0