The sight of a ship drifting to the shores of Elliot’s beach on Wednesday afternoon, attracted scores of visitors, young and old.
Residents of Ooroor Kuppam, who spotted Pratibha Cauvery around 2 p.m., braved prickly, sand-laden winds to ogle at it. The incident turned tragic however, with the death of one of the crew. The victim, Anand Mohandas of Puducherry, was one of 25 crew members who had boarded a lifeboat following a call by the captain to vacate the ship.
The lifeboat capsized mid-sea, and while 17 were rescued by local fishermen with the help of police, the rest have been declared missing.
The rescued were admitted to Fortis Malar Hospital in Adyar. Three are in the intensive care unit for observation. Medical superintendent of the hospital Meera Govindarajan said Mr. Mohandas had drowned. “The rest of them have ingested a lot of sea water and are in a state of shock,” she added.
The ship, which had dropped anchor at Chennai Port, drifted in the wind after authorities urged all ships to vacate the port following a cyclone warning on Tuesday.
The ship had earlier carried oil in its cargo-hold, but was empty then and left the port. It was buffeted by the gale and reached Besant Nagar.
Police also had a difficult time controlling the locals who made a beeline for the shore. Many elderly couples also arrived there. The visitors seemed unaware of the ferocity of the winds or the salty sand on their skin.
Sudha Rani had made the trip from Adyar. “My sister Pechiamma called me and so I came to see the ship,” she said. Sangeetha, a resident of Besant Nagar, had come to the beach with her five-year-old son. While people stared at what was unfolding before them, several houses along the shore remained locked. The residents had moved to safer areas, waiting for the cyclone to blow over.
Along the entire stretch of the Marina and Elliot’s, two-wheelers and cars were parked and police tow vehicles were making the rounds.
Vehicular traffic from Santhome Road was diverted from Kamarajar Salai near Presidency College. Police said the diversion was due to the sandy winds blowing in from the sea.