Cyclone Thane hits Pondicherry

An uprooted tree in Angalakkupam

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Last month a cyclone hit South India and Pondicherry, where Development in Action’s partner organisation Sharana is, was badly affected. Blog Editor and DiA committee member Emily Wight reports on the effects. Emily spent five months volunteering in Pondicherry last year.

When monsoon hits Pondicherry, it hits hard. I remember when I was volunteering there with DiA last year we returned from our Diwali holiday to find the windows of our flat blown in and dirt and rubble all over the floor. Locals told us there had been a cyclone – so casually we realised it was commonplace.

But Cyclone Thane, which struck South India on December 30, was not just another cyclone. Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and neighbouring states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala were on high alert. Fishermen were warned not to go to sea; ships were told to stay away from ports; trains to Chennai were delayed. 

According to the Hindustan Times, 33 people – seven of which were from Pondicherry – were killed in the cyclone, which saw winds of 140km per hour. It struck Pondicherry at 6.30am – a sociable hour for Tamils, who are usually wide awake by this time and enjoying breakfast or doing household chores.

Looking at this video, you can see the destruction caused by Cyclone Thane: trees uprooted, buildings smashed to pieces, debris filling the streets.

Devastation in Mathur (c.Sharana)

Devastation in Mathur (c.Sharana)

But it is worse in Pondicherry’s neighbouring villages. Villages such as Angalakuppam, where our partner organisation Sharana has a community centre, creche and clinic – and Mathur, which is a more recent project of the organisation. These photos from Sharana illustrate the damage caused.

Cyclone Thane was covered by the BBC website, but other than that it was neglected by mainstream British press – possibly because these sorts of natural disasters are occuring more and more due to climate change and the media can’t report everything.

Sharana said on their website: “Not only has the cyclone lead to the loss of property, but the immediate aftermath is a complex situation complicated by issues of logistics, rescue, relief distribution, limited accessibility to some of the affected areas.”

Destruction in Pondicherry (c.Sharana)

Many of the villages around Pondicherry are difficult to access and this will have been made harder due to fallen debris obstructing roads.

DiA will keep you posted about how you can donate to Sharana to help them – a very small charity doing such great work in the community – get back on their feet.

Visit Sharana’s Facebook page for more information about the relief effort and to donate.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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