More than 80,000 evacuated as deadly cyclone hits southern India

A cyclone has hit the coast of southern India, killing at least 11 people and damaging homes after more than 80,000 residents were evacuated.

Cyclone Gaja blew ashore in Tamil Nadu state with heavy rain and winds of 55mph, said Narendra Kumar, a National Disaster Response Force official. The storm weakened after reaching shore.

People in low-lying areas had been moved into more than 470 relief centres in six districts, and fishermen were warned to stay away from the sea.

A truck driver comes out from his vehicle to take shelter during rain and strong winds caused by the cyclonic storm. Credit: AP

The state’s top elected official, K Palaniswami, told reporters the storm had killed 11 people.

Initial reports indicate the deaths were caused by wall collapses and electrocution, said NDRF official Umesh, who uses one name.

The storm felled trees and power lines, and authorities disconnected the electric supply to the worst-hit areas to avoid electrocutions.

A motorcycle in the debris from a collapsed house Credit: KK Production/AP

Schools were closed in places, and vehicles remained off the roads in most parts of Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Heavy rain damaged paddy crops and roads and strong winds uprooted banana and papaya trees along the coastline.

Tamil Nadu is prone to cyclones which develop in the Bay of Bengal. In 1999, a storm killed more than 15,000 people in eastern Orissa.