Indian Cyclone Forces Tanker Aground

Posted November 1st, 2012 at 3:45 am (UTC-5)
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At least five people are missing after a cyclone that has battered southern India forced an oil tanker aground.

The storm, named Cyclone Nilam, has weakened to a tropical storm after coming ashore near Chennai off the Bay of Bengal.

Thirty-two crew members were recovered alive from the Pratibha Cauvery on Thursday, and rescuers were using helicopters and small boats to search for the missing. One crew member was confirmed drowned.

On Wednesday tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes ahead of the storm.

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.

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.