Cyclone forces 150,000 to flee as it slams into southern India

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A tropical storm weakened yesterday after slamming into southern India, bringing heavy rain and a storm surge and forcing 150,000 people to move.

Six deaths have been reported in India and Sri Lanka.

Just before the storm made landfall on Wednesday, an oil tanker with 37 crew ran aground off Chennai. One of its lifeboats capsized in the choppy waters and one crew member drowned, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

Two helicopters searched in the Bay of Bengal yesterday for four more crew who are missing.

Andhra Pradesh state said two people died there when their homes collapsed due to heavy rain on Wednesday night in Nellore and Chittoor districts, and PTI reported another death in Tamil Nadu state, a 46-year old man who slipped into the rough sea from a pier and drowned.

Sri Lanka reported two deaths earlier from the cyclone, which packed maximum winds of 45mph after landfall but weakened to a tropical depression.

A storm surge of up to five feet was forecast to flood low-lying coastal areas.

Power supply was disrupted to parts of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, PTI said.

State authorities turned 282 schools into relief centres in Chennai and the city’s port halted cargo operations. Twenty-three ships were moved to safer areas.

About 150,000 people were moved to shelters in Nellore.

In Sri Lanka, 4,627 people were displaced by flooding and 56 fled because of a landslide threat in the island’s central region.

One woman died on Tuesday after a tree branch fell on her while another person was killed in flooding which also damaged about 1,000 houses.