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Tens of thousands flee homes as cyclone Nilam hits India (PHOTOS)

Published time: October 31, 2012 17:47
Edited time: October 31, 2012 21:47
INDIA, CHENNAI : Onlookers gather on the beach after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. The tanker ran aground off the city coast due to high winds before the landfall of Cyclone Nilam, a report said. AFP PHOTO/SESHADRI SUKUMAR

INDIA, CHENNAI : Onlookers gather on the beach after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. The tanker ran aground off the city coast due to high winds before the landfall of Cyclone Nilam, a report said. AFP PHOTO/SESHADRI SUKUMAR

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in southeast India as a cyclone hit coastal areas, with officials warning of possible flooding and damage to houses.

Cyclone Nilam struck the historic port of Mahabalipuram, 50 kilometres south of state capital Chennai and is forecast to cross the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh overnight.

“We have evacuated thousands of people from Mahabalipuram and nearby coastal districts. We are monitoring the situation in Chennai but have not ordered any evacuations there,” said a local disaster management official.

Chennai’s port has been closed, as well as nearly 300 schools in the city. Both government and private offices closed early to allow people to reach their homes or nearby shelters.

The latest update from the Indian Meteorological Department says that winds gusting up to 100 kilometers an hour would trigger flooding of low-lying areas due to a sea surge and heavy rain. It also warned the cyclone would likely cause extensive damage to houses and uproot large trees, leading to power blackouts and communication problems.

Local authorities said they were preparing helicopters and boats in case of an emergency. Cyclone shelters, schools and community halls have also been opened to serve as potential relief camps.

Earlier, the cyclone hit Sri Lanka, where thousands had to evacuate their homes.

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Women shield their faces during strong winds at Marina beach in the southern Indian city of Chennai October 31, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer India)
Women shield their faces during strong winds at Marina beach in the southern Indian city of Chennai October 31, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer India)
 Photographed through the window of an ambulance, a crewmember of the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery which ran aground receives treatment following his rescue off the beach in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
Photographed through the window of an ambulance, a crewmember of the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery which ran aground receives treatment following his rescue off the beach in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
An Indian man wades through a flooded street in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo)
An Indian man wades through a flooded street in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo)
Ambulances and police vehicles are seen on the beachfront after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
Ambulances and police vehicles are seen on the beachfront after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
Onlookers gather on the beach after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
Onlookers gather on the beach after the oil tanker ship Pratibha Cauvery ran aground off the coast in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Seshadri Sukumar)
A tree rests on top of a motor car following heavy winds in the run up to Cyclone Nilam in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Str)
A tree rests on top of a motor car following heavy winds in the run up to Cyclone Nilam in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo/Str)
An Indian man wades through a flooded area in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo)
An Indian man wades through a flooded area in Chennai on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo)

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