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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Sixteen dead, 100 missing as cyclone Ockhi hits India and Sri Lanka

India sends warships to search for fishing boats missing of south-eastern coast

Two men look out at rough seas off Colombo caused by winds from Cyclone Ockhi on November 30, 2017. Ishara S Kodikara / AFP
Two men look out at rough seas off Colombo caused by winds from Cyclone Ockhi on November 30, 2017. Ishara S Kodikara / AFP

A powerful cyclone has killed at least 16 people across India and Sri Lanka, uprooting trees and cutting power for millions, with Met officials warning on Friday that the storm would intensify.

Disaster officials said nine people were killed in India and seven in neighbouring Sri Lanka, most crushed by trees ripped up by destructive winds raging at 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour.

Warships have been deployed to comb the south-eastern coast for fishing boats missing in wild seas, India's defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Another official said an estimated 100 crew were aboard the missing vessels.

Torrential wind and rain unleashed by Cyclone Ockhi has shut down schools in Chennai, a coastal Indian city of seven million where conditions are set to worsen.

Images broadcast from southern India showed the scale of the destruction as the cyclone reached the shore, with electricity poles and trees toppled.

Tourists in Kochi, a coastal city in the southern Kerala state, have been told to stay away from popular beaches where huge waves were pounding the shore.

Power was cut for millions in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu state as the storm made its way from Sri Lanka, with India's meteorological department warning of worse to come.

"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours," the department saide.

India's eastern coast - including state capitals like Chennai and Bhubaneswar that are home to millions - is prone to seasonal storms that wreak immense damage between April and December.

In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone battered the eastern state of Orissa.

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