As residents of the northeastern United States struggle to recover from this week’s huge storm, people in southern India are still being battered by a cyclone that’s caused 100,000 people to be evacuated. Host Lisa Mullins speaks with the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder about the impact of cyclone Nilam.
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Lisa Mullins: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is “The World”, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. There’s been a lot of flooding to report around the globe this week. Of course, New York and New Jersey are still reeling from the impact of super-storm Sandy. Subway and highway tunnels remain filled with water today in lower Manhattan. In New Jersey, there’s concerns that thousands of people may still be trapped by flood waters in the city of Hoboken. We Americans though are not alone in dealing with such news. In a few minutes we’re going to hear about the Italian city of Venice which has been inundated by high tides that are extraordinary even for that watery city. But first, we’re going to turn to Southern India where more than one hundred thousand people have been evacuated due to the latest cyclone to his the country’s southeastern coast. The BBCâ€™s Sanjoy Majumder is on the scene right. I understand that you are heading into the second night of being battered by this cyclone called “Nilam”. What is the latest in the storm and its impact?
Sanjoy Majumder: Well, the storm itself has quietened significantly. It made landfall yesterday with very heavy winds of about a hundred kilometers per hour which brought trees down, brought power lines down. A lot of farmland we understand has been destroyed as has roads, but the loss of the life has been minimal partly because the authorities were very quick to evacuate something like a hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand people living all along the coast who were moved up to higher ground.
Mullins: And is that a sign of good preparation for the cyclone?
Majumder: I think it is. That’s definitely the sense we’ve got from speaking to a lot of people here, that they felt that the authorities here were very quick to respond. I think they were helped with a slice of good luck which is that the storm wasn’t as intense as had originally been predicted and also it didn’t last quite as long as people had thought. But certainly, they were very well prepared.
Mullins: We should mention that this is a fairly frequent occurrence in this part of the world, as destructive as the cyclones can be. There is though I report I understand of an oil tanker that ran aground and some of the sailors are among the dead from this storm. Is there, right now, the possibility of an oil spill?
Majumder: Well, in fact, that ship is very close where I am. I spent much of the day looking at it. It’s just of the main beach here in Chennai, about two to three hundred meters. Most of the sailors on board were rescued, but there are five who’d been missing all through the day and it’s feared that they are among the dead. And the second problem that you mentioned, the fear of an oil slick, the coastguard and the navy is making an attempt to try and tow the ship back into the sea, but it’s going to be a lengthy process.
Mullins: Sanjoy, you know that here on the east coast of the United States we are still dealing with the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy. We are not used to weather quite as intense as Sandy has, at least in this part of the country. I wonder if you can talk about the frequency of cyclones in the area where you are?
Majumder: Well, it’s certainly something that people here are very used to. Particularly at this time of the year, the Bay of Bengal, which is the main sea of the east coast of India, is known to be very volatile. This year and the last year, we’ve had cyclonic storms which haven’t actually created as much damage as previous ones, and, again, part of it is due to better preparation.
Mullins: That’s the BBC’s India correspondent, Sanjoy Majumder in Chennai, India. Thanks very much, Sanjoy.
Majumder: You’re welcome.
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— Sanjoy Majumder (@BBCSanjoyM) November 1, 2012