Thirty seven people were killed as heavy rains continued to lash the state for the second day on Wednesday even as the port town of Nagapattinam, 350 km south of Chennai, devastated by tsunami in 2004 braced for cyclone ‘Nisha’.
The storm was hovering about 50 km south-east of Nagapattinam at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday and was expected to cross the coast by night. The rain, brought by a depression over the Bay of Bengal, threw life out of gear from Chennai to down south.
An elderly woman, Arokya Mary, was killed in Nagapattinam as she tried to move to a safer place with heavy winds threatening the thatched roof of her home. But, a coconut hit her and she died. At least 36 more deaths, mainly due to electrocution and house collapse, were reported from other southern districts.
With the storm expected to make landfall between Vedaranyam and Nagapattinam, the meteorological office has warned of gale winds of up to 85 kmph.
In Rameshwaram, 10 fishermen were reported missing and several fishing boats damaged. The Nagapattinam district administration had evacuated 16,850 people by Wednesday afternoon and set up 68 relief camps. Paddy crop standing in thousands of acres has been submerged in several districts, including Thanjavur. Several bridges have collapsed and the Cauvery river broke banks at least three places.
The unseasonal rain has so far damaged over 10,500km of state highways, Highways Minister Vellakoil Saminathan said.
Schools and colleges remained closed for the second day on Wednesday in Chennai, 13 of the 30 Tamil Nadu districts and Union Territory of Puducherry. Chennai, lashed by rains since Tuesday evening, recorded 11 cm rainfall.
Road and rail traffic too was affected. Submerged runway delayed flights at Chennai aiport. Community kitchens have been set up in the city, where heavy winds uprooted some 60 huge trees, smashing several cars.