Gusty winds dragged a cargo ship, ‘MT Prathiba Cauvery’, anchored off the Chennai Port, hours before cyclone Nilam struck Tamil Nadu coast on Wednesday afternoon and the vessel ran aground off Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar. One of those who jumped into the sea in a bid to escape the weather’s fury died, while six were unaccounted for.

The Navy and Coast Guard launched an intensive search to locate those missing.

As 22 out of 37 crew members jumped into the sea in a bid to escape the storm’s fury in lifeboats, the boats capsized, and not all could be rescued. One person died in a city hospital, while another is in a critical condition. He is among the 15 undergoing treatment.

Despite repeated warnings by the Coast Guard to remain on board, the panic-stricken crew members jumped into the sea, police sources said.

Chennai Port Trust officials said of the 37 people on board, 16 were rescued by fishermen and defence forces. They were admitted to a private hospital here, but one of them died.

According to Commodore Amar K. Mahadevan, Naval Officer in-charge Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, aerial search operations could not be immediately launched due to the inclement weather.

Deputy Inspector-General of Coast Guard Gurudreep Singh said ‘ICGS Varuna’ was deployed to reach the stranded ship and provide assistance.

“As of now there is no trace of the six missing persons. We have stationed adequate manpower and medical teams at the beach.

The Coast Guard advised the crew that the safest place under such circumstances was to remain on board the ship.”

The ship had offloaded oil in the Chennai Port on Tuesday.