49 people die in south India cyclone: report
At least 42 people including a French national were killed when a cyclone hit southern India, reports said on Saturday as engineers rushed to restore power supplies knocked out by the gale.
The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said the death toll from Friday's cyclone had risen to 42 in the southern Indian state.
Cyclone Thane packing winds of up to 140 kilometres (85 miles) an hour lashed the coast between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and the territory of Pondicherry on Friday, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction.
At least 26 people died in Tamil Nadu's worst-hit district of Cuddalore, the United News of India news agency said in a separate dispatch from state capital of Chennai.
"Approximately 50,000 (thatched) huts are damaged by the high winds but we will get a clearer picture of the damage later today," Cuddalore administrator V. Amuthavalli added.
Seven others were killed in the former French enclave of Pondicherry, other officials said by telephone.
France's government of Foreign Affairs said a French national had died in Pondicherry but gave no other details.
The other deaths were reported elsewhere in Tamil Nadu.
Most of the deaths occurred due to electrocution and walls collapsing in the cyclone-hit regions, they said.
PTI quoting officials said engineers were trying to restore normalcy within 48 hours in Cuddalore.
The cyclone hit supplies of essential supplies to Cuddalore the news agency said and added drinking water was being sent by tankers to the district.
Rail and air traffic had resumed normal service on Saturday in Tamil Nadu after the cyclone weakened into a depression.
The gale pushed a cargo ship aground off Chennai, PTI 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.
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.
© 2011 AFP