December 30, 2011 – INDIA – Lashing rains and gale force winds are bearing down on India’s southeastern coast, disrupting power supplies and communication lines as Cyclone Thane makes landfall near the industrial city of Chennai, officials said. Packing wind speeds of up to 125kph, and accompanied by tidal surges of up to 1.5m, Thane hit Tamil Nadu state on Friday, killing at least 19 people and causing coastal villagers to move to relief shelters. “Under the influence of this system, rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls would occur,” the Indian Meteorological Department said. “Gale wind speed reaching 120kph to 130kph gusting to 145kmph is likely along and off north Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry coasts during next three hours and then decrease gradually.” Witnesses in Chennai and Pondicherry said trees had been toppled, there had been power outages throughout the night and disruption to phone and internet services in some areas. Hundreds of people from fishing communities along north Tamil Nadu’s coast, and neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, have moved to schools set up as relief centers until the weather system passes. “Making relief efforts difficult, roads are blocked because of heavy rainfall, trains were canceled and international flights also canceled,” Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri said. “They had about 24 hours to prepare, unlike with other storms. So evacuation shelters are in place,” our correspondent said. “Eight teams from the disaster management force are deployed from New Delhi, with some 15,000 people put on high alert.” India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage. In 1999, a “super-cyclone” battered the coast of the eastern state of Orissa for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300kph, killing 10,000 people.