Thousands Flee as Cyclone Hits Southern India

Posted October 31st, 2012 at 4:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes Wednesday as a cyclone slammed into southern India from the Bay of Bengal.

Officials say that Cyclone Nilam left at least two people dead, including a crew member of an oil tanker that ran aground off Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.

India's Meteorological Department said Nilam made landfall at the coastal city of Mahabalipuram, south of Chennai, which is a popular tourist destination. About 4,000 people were evacuated from the area.

Nilam was expected to move towards Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, bringing heavy rains and winds approaching 100 kilometers an hour. Officials said the storm could whip tides 1 to 1.5 meters higher than normal.

They warned fishermen to cease operations along the southeastern coast and urged residents of low-lying areas to move farther inland.

Schools and most businesses along the Chennai coast were closed for the day.

The weather agency said residents should expect possible minor damage to power and communication lines, flooding of escape routes, and possibly extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts. Many crops are also expected to be ruined under incessant rains.

Local authorities have turned hundreds of schools into emergency relief centers.