'Seven killed' in southern India cyclone

Onlookers watch ship Pratibha Cauvery, which ran aground allegedly due to strong winds, on the bay of Bengal coast, in the southern Indian city of Chennai, October 31, 2012
Image caption Some crew members of the ship are reported to be missing

At least seven people have died and an oil tanker has run aground after the south-eastern coast of India was hit by Cyclone Nilam on Wednesday evening.

Five people, including a crew member of the oil tanker, drowned after a boat carrying him and others capsized near Chennai, in Tamil Nadu state. A search is on for the six crew who are missing.

The other two deaths took place in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh.

Nearly 4,000 people were evacuated to escape the storm which hit Chennai.

At least 4,000 people in displacement camps in nearby Sri Lanka have been affected by flooding. But the worst of the storm failed to hit Sri Lankan territory directly.

Crops damaged

Cyclone Nilam hit the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and the town of Pondicherry with wind speeds reaching 100km/h (60mph).

Schools, colleges and cargo operations at the port in Chennai, Tamil Nadu's state capital, were shut. Fishermen in both states were warned not to venture out to sea.

India's weather department has warned of continual rainfall, strong winds and rising tides until at least Thursday morning.

Image caption The storm buffeted the city of Chennai

It said in a statement that the storm had extensively damaged groundnut and maize crops, and thatched-roof properties, along the coast.

In addition power and communication lines have been put out of action.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka disruption was at its greatest in Mullaitivu in the north-east and Gampaha on the west coast. In the north, the Red Cross has been distributing tarpaulins, mats and mosquito nets.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that people in areas hit by heavy fighting at the conclusion of the war in 2009 have been badly affected.

In December 2011, more than 30 people died and many homes were damaged after a cyclone struck near Pondicherry.

And in May 2010 at least 23 people died as a powerful cyclone caused widespread havoc across Andhra Pradesh.

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