Trees and traffic lights collapse, Puducherry plunges into darkness

The streets remained eerily empty as Thane moved away from Puducherry leaving a scene of destruction. Trees laid scattered on every street along with several traffic lights and shop signs.

At 3 a.m., heavy wind started creating havoc around Puducherry, intensifying till 5.30 a.m. Virtually none of the residents got any sleep as the wind kept howling with intermittent crashing sound all over the town.

People living near the beach were the worst affected. Tourists in Ashram's Guest House by the sea and other beachside hotels said they were woken up with the sound of waves lashing the shore and their windowpanes rattling. The strong wind continued well into the morning, with wind speed reducing only around 10 a.m.

“Before the cyclone started, the power went off and the noise got scary. My three-year-old girl child has still not recovered,” says a tourist staying at Ajantha Inn.

Residents were terrified to venture out as heavy rain and wind continued till noon. When people slowly came out to the road, a scene of utter devastation met their eyes. The entire town was experiencing a blackout.

Hundreds of people queued up at two or three petrol bunks that were open. Bus services to most places were suspended and very few shops selling supplies were open. Even shops that were open were running low on supplies and shopkeepers were rationing the supply of essential commodities such as candles, which were being bought in bulk.

Milk was a precious commodity, with packets selling for close to double their normal price.

Many people who were staying close to the beach were horror-struck and spoke of seeing many fishermen huts being shattered.

Speaking to The Hindu, a resident at the Mother's Guest House Palome said, “I have never seen such complete devastation in my life. I was good friends with many of the fishermen and when I woke up, I saw that all their huts, except one were completely destroyed.”

Towards the evening, more people emerged out of their houses to see the extent of destruction.

According to Ramu, a resident of Vysial Street, “we were too scared to get out when it was still raining because we were not sure whether more trees would collapse. The beach area is now in complete shambles. Even the tsunami did not bring the town to a standstill like this. This is the worst disaster I have seen in over 45 years.”

People from various resorts surrounding Puducherry were relocated to different hotels, with massive damage occurring in the resorts. People who were visiting the town for New Year celebration are now forced to subsist on the bare minimum, according to Ramya, a tourist at Anandha Inn. Her family was relocated from a beach resort late on Thursday night as a precautionary measure.

Although coastal villages such as Vaithikuppam were severely damaged, most people were moved to shelters. The area remains a mere shell of destroyed huts, houses and shops and fallen trees.