Chennai, India. At least 34 people died when a cyclone hit southern India, officials said on Saturday as engineers rushed to restore power supplies knocked out by winds of up to 140 kilometers an hour.
Cyclone Thane lashed the coast between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu state and the territory of Pondicherry on Friday, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction, officials from the affected regions said.
“The death toll has now reached 22 in Cuddalore,” district administrator V. Amuthavalli said, adding that the toll is likely to rise.
“Approximately 50,000 (thatched) huts are damaged by the high winds but we will get a clearer picture of the damage later today,” the official said and added that people also reported to hospitals with injuries.
Most of the deaths occurred due to electrocution and walls collapsing in the coastal district.
Five others died elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, other officials said in state capital Chennai.
They said engineers were working to restore phone lines and power supplies that were cut off in some regions during the cyclone, while rail and air traffic had resumed normal service on Saturday.
The gale pushed a cargo ship aground off Chennai, the Press Trust of India said and added that the storm also damaged 70 fishing boats.
Hundreds of acres (hectares) of paddy crops ready for harvest were damaged in four coastal Tamil Nadu districts, it added.
The storm also slammed the former French enclave of Pondicherry, leaving at least seven dead, the region’s Chief Minister N. Rangasami said.
“I have never seen such havoc in my entire life,” Rangasami said, referring to the widespread damage caused by the cyclone, which later weakened into a depression.
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 fields.
In 2009, Cyclone Aila tore through southern Bangladesh killing 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres of roads and river embankments, leading to major flooding.
India’s Andhra Pradesh state saw its worst cyclone in 1977 when more than 10,000 people were killed.