Six ship crew missing as India cyclone kills eight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 6:04pm

Rescuers in southern India searched on Thursday for six tanker crew missing after their lifeboat capsized as a cyclone slammed into the coast overnight, forcing thousands to flee and killing eight.

The crew of the Pratibha Cauvery oil tanker was forced to abandon ship when it ran aground on the southern edge of Chennai, and one sailor was confirmed to have drowned.

The ship, which had unloaded its oil in Chennai port, was stranded on a beach close to the shore on Thursday as three helicopters and small vessels took the 15 remaining crew members ashore.

“One sailor is dead and we are searching for six other crew members,” Jayraman, a disaster management official in Chennai, who only uses one name, told reporters.

Shipping authorities had reported that the Pratibha Cauvery was not badly damaged and that a plan to refloat it was being drawn up, he said.

The overall death toll from the cyclone reached eight, with thousands of people also forced to flee from coastal towns to seek shelter in schools and government buildings.

One other person drowned, two were killed when a wall collapsed, one person was electrocuted and three died when a tree fell on their hut.

“We have managed to restore power in all districts after the storm,” Jayraman said. “Food and drinking water have been provided to all the 5,000 people who have been evacuated from their homes.”

Government authorities on Thursday said the storm had weakened substantially though heavy rains continued to lash some parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states.

“Our houses are submerged in water. We have no idea where we will live now,” Raman Ram, a fisherman taking shelter in a Chennai school with his family told a local television news channel.

Cyclone Nilam struck the historic port of Mahabalipuram, 50 kilometres south of Chennai on Wednesday evening before moving inland.

The last cyclone in India struck in the same southeast region in January, claiming 42 lives and leaving a trail of destruction across Tamil Nadu.

India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal between April and November, causing widespread damage to homes, livestock and crops.

Andhra Pradesh saw its worst cyclone in 1977 when more than 10,000 people were killed.