CHENNAI, Dec 30 (agencies): At least 33 people were killed as cyclone Thane that hit the Tamil Nadu coast, with a wind speed of 140 kmph, Friday morning left a trail of death and destruction of crops and properties in the state and Puducherry, officials said.
The total number of dead in Tamil Nadu rose to 26 and seven in Puducherry, caused by electrocution, falling of tree or roof or walls during the day.
In Tamil Nadu coastal district Cuddalore, where teh cyclone hit with full force, reported 21 deaths while the remaining dead are from Villupuram (2), Tiruvallur (2) and Chennai (1).
Standing paddy crop on around 25,000 acres of land in the Cauvery delta region is estimated to have been damaged due the high speed cyclonic wind.
Thousands of people reached relief camps in Cuddalore as the strong wind blew off the thatched roofs of houses.
The wind also uprooted hundreds of trees, electric poles, traffic signal poles and mobile phone towers, and damaged standing crops across the coastal districts in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
A Korean cargo ship OSM Arena anchored out in the sea started drifting towards Chennai shore due to the strong current and wind. The ship is now standing at a safe distance and steps to tow the vessel to safer waters will be taken Saturday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and Puducherry Chief Minister N. Rangasamy held emergency meetings with their officials to assess the situation and take out relief measures.
Expressing her grief and offering condolecences to the breaved families, Jayalalithaa announced a solatium of Rs.200,000 to the next of kin of the dead.
She also ordered release of Rs.150 crore for relief and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.
In a statement issued here, Jayalalithaa said: `District collectors, department heads and secretaries have been ordered to estimate the damages and submit it to the government.`
Jayalalithaa directed ministers B.V. Ramanaa (environment), C.V. Shanmugam (school education, and sports), K.A. Jayapal (fisheries), T.K.M. Chinnaya (animal husbandry) and M.C. Sampath (rural industries) to oversee relief measures in Tiruvallur, Villupuram, Nagapattinam, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore, respectively.
Power supply was disconnected in Cuddalore, Villupuram and Nagapattinam since Thursday night as a precautionary measure.
However, Jayalalithaa ordered restoration of power and removal of fallen trees that blocked vehicular movements.
Around 6,000 people living in low-lying areas in Kanchipuram, Cuddalore, Tiruvallur, Nagapattinam, Villupuram and Chennai have been shifted to safer places.
Teams from the National Disaster Management Force have been sent to Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Chennai and Tiruvallur.
Sea waves as tall as 1.5 metres hit the shoreline. The storm is more wind-centric and there`s not much of rain, an India Meteorological Department (IMD) official told IANS.
According to the weather bulletin, the Thane cyclone system has weakened into a deep depression and lay centred around 100 km west of Cuddalore. Rainfall is forecast over north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 12 hours.
The weathermen have warned fishermen not to venture into the sea for next 12 hours.
Meanwhile in Chennai, people in low-lying areas were shifted to relief centres and food packets were distributed. Police banned public from venturing out onto the Marina beach as sea waters entered inland, around 500 metres from the shoreline.
Boats and nets of fishermen were sucked into the sea due to high tides.
Southern Railways rescheduled two trains, cancelled five and diverted five that reach or leave Chennai.
In Puducherry, power was switched off since 11 p.m. Thursday night as a precaution.
`We don`t know what is happening in the outside world. All that we hear is the howling of wind. Many trees have fallen down. Even mobile phone signals are not proper,` Puducherry resident S. Ravikumar told IANS.