Heavy rains and gushing winds hammered the southern coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Thursday as a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal turned into a cyclone named Ockhi, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

While four deaths were reported in Tamil Nadu, four people were killed in Kerala. Sources said the strong winds uprooted several trees that fell on vehicles and houses, killing five people while two died after touching live wires in Thiruvananthapuram’s Kattakada. Authorities said the toll was likely to go up as snapped communication networks had cut off several areas.

At least 12 fishing boats set off to the seas from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam coasts on Wednesday night are reported to be missing.

Navy helicopters have begun search operations to locate the missing fishermen.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and army personnel are on standby as heavy rains and winds are expected to continue for the next 12 hours.

Met department officials said the deep depression took a cyclonic proportion in the early hours of Thursday and centered around 185km north-west of Galle in Sri Lanka and 200km south-east of Kanyakumari.

Moving towards Lakshadweep, the intensity of the cyclone will slow down after the landfall, they said.

Named Ockhi – a contribution of Bangladesh – the cyclone can generate winds between 100-160 kmph when it hits the land.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called an emergency cabinet meeting to take stock of the situation.

The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority has asked civic bodies to be ready for rescue operations. Kerala police chief Loknath Behra said cops had started evacuating people from low-lying areas.

Railways have cancelled at least 12 trains and educational institutions have been asked to shut down in three districts of south Kerala.

Heavy rains also triggered landslides in several high-range areas.

The Congress has cancelled the mega rally in the state capital on Friday, which was to be inaugurated by its vice president Rahul Gandhi, in view of the inclement weather conditions. High tides swept away a major portion of the Shangumugam beach, the venue of the rally.

High tides swept away a major portion of the Shangumugam beach, the venue of the rally. (Vivek Nair/HT Photo)

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