PUDUCHERRY/CHENNAI: Packing a wind speed of 140km per hour, Cyclone Thane pummelled the Tamil Nadu coast and the Union territory of Puducherry on Friday morning, leaving in its wake 35 dead besides untold devastation. The cyclone made its landfall between Puducherry and Cuddalore district in the state, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rains all along the coast.
Cuddalore, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts along Tamil Nadu's northern coast and Puducherry were the worst hit - several huts and small houses collapsed like a pack of cards, main arterial roads were damaged and uprooted trees and electric posts were strewn across streets and pavements.
The picturesque 180km coastal stretch from Marakkanam (Villupuram district), about 120km from Chennai, up to Nagapattinam, including Puducherry and Cuddalore districts, bore the brunt of the cyclone. The East Coast Road (ECR) from Marakkanam to Nagapattinam in central Tamil Nadu resembled a war zone with uprooted trees, electric posts and signboards disrupting traffic flow.
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, who took stock of the situation in the morning in a meeting with senior officials in Chennai, sanctioned Rs 150 crore for immediate relief measures in the affected areas and directed four ministers to visit the districts devastated by the cyclone. Jayalalithaa also directed district collectors, deputy collectors and department secretaries to assess the extent of the damage caused by the cyclone and submit a report. In a statement, she said four teams of the National Disaster Management have been sent to affected districts.
Most of the deaths were due to wall collapses, electrocution, drowning and severe cold. Cuddalore district collector V Amuthavalli said the damages were extensive. "As per preliminary assessment, more than 5,000 houses of fishermen were damaged in the cyclone. Telephone lines were affected. We don't have exact figures of the death toll as of now," she said.
In Chennai, which escaped the fury of the cyclone, two people were killed in rain-related incidents. While a woman was killed in a building collapse, a man was electrocuted.
Police said 19 persons, including two children and seven women, were killed in Cuddalore district. However, an official statement put the death toll at 26 in Tamil Nadu, including 21 in Cuddalore, two each in Villupuram and Tiruvallur and one in Chennai.
The government announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for each of the bereaved families. The Chennai Met office forecast few spells of rain and thundershowers in the city on Saturday morning but predicted clear skies by evening. The weather conditions in Puducherry, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam are also expected to improve by Saturday.