Heavy rains pound south TN, 4 persons killed

Kanyakumari/Chennai, Nov 30  Torrential rains pounded several parts of southern Tamil Nadu affecting normal life as cyclone Okhi lay centred about 70 km from Kanyakumari today.

Four persons were killed when trees fell on them in different places in Kanyakumari district, officials said.

Rains accompanied by gusty winds lashed southern districts including Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin from late last night as the depression in the Bay of Bengal intensified into a deep depression and then into a cyclone today.

Met office forecast heavy-to-very-heavy rainfall at isolated places over south Tamil Nadu in the next 24 hours.

In Chennai, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said state and national disaster response force teams have been rushed to Kanyakumari district, where more than 500 trees and nearly 1,000 electric poles were uprooted.

The southern tip of Kanyakumari bore the burnt of rains and gusty winds with 985 electric poles and more than 500 trees falling, State Disaster Management Agency said.

"Do not come out of homes in Kanyakumari, Tuticorin, and Tirunelveli stay safe indoors and take precautions do not panic," it said in a tweet.

The yesterday's depression over the Bay of Bengal intensified into a deep depression early today and further escalated into a cyclonic storm.

It is headed towards the Lakshwadeep archipelago, according to the Met Department.

Madhavan Rajeevan, secretary in the Earth Sciences ministry, said in New Delhi that Lakswadeep in the southern part of the Arabian Sea will start experiencing heavy rainfall and strong winds from tomorrow. "It will hit the islands on December 2," Rajeevan said.

Palaniswami, who reviewed the situation, said "To undertake swift relief operations, one team comprising 70 personnel and two teams of 60 personnel of State and National Disaster Response Force respectively have been rushed to Kanyakumari district."

He said state Ministers and senior IAS officials have been assigned to the southern districts to monitor relief work.

Ministers who hail from the districts have been asked to coordinate and monitor relief, he said.

Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management R B Udhaya Kumar has been sent to take up relief work in Kanyakumari on a war footing, the Chief Minister said.

Also, electricity personnel with necessary equipment have been rushed to restore power distribution that was affected due to trees falling over electric poles, he said.

Apart from Kanyakumari, rains lashed several other parts of southern Tamil Nadu including Tirunelveli, Cauvery delta belt and Tuticorin since last night.

The Courtallam falls near Tirunelveli and several salt pans in Tuticorin region were flooded. Farmers in Thanjavur expressed joy over the rains.

Educational institutions remained closed in southern districts such as Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Viruthunagar and Thanjavur.

A couple of trains, originating and passing through Kanyakumari suffered partial to full cancellation and some were rescheduled, Southern Railway officials said.

Local administration employed personnel to remove uprooted trees even as movement of vehicular traffic was affected.

Fishermen stayed off the sea in Tuticorin even as boats anchored on the shore suffered damage following strong winds.

The India Meteorological Department said heavy-to-very-heavy rainfall at isolated places were "very likely" over south Tamil Nadu, south Kerala during the next 24 hours.

"Rainfall will occur at most places, heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places, and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places very likely over Lakshadweep area during next 48 hours," it said.

Mahesh Palawat, vice-president (meteorology and climate change) of Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, said there was a possibility of flooding in the islands due to heavy rainfall.

Sea conditions would be "very rough to high" over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and "high to very high" during subsequent 48 hours, the IMD added.