Driving down the East Coast Road from Chennai to Pondicherry, it wasn’t until I was 30 kilometres away that I started to notice the scars of the cyclone that hit on December 29th. From the road I saw fallen trees, damaged houses, and palm trees leaning over at 90 degrees.
In the city the destruction was visible everywhere. Dead tree branches littered the sidewalks, many new stumps marked where trees used to be, compound walls and fences were broken, many roof tiles missing and thatched roofs completely gone. Bharathi Park was closed: many trees were uprooted and the paths obstructed with fallen branches.
In nearby Auroville, there was still no electricity or water supply in some parts two weeks after the storm. Electrical wires lay on the ground while the sounds of generators, chain saws and earth movers resonated in the air. It’s estimated that Auroville lost more than half of its trees. Many houses were damaged and the windmills which were used to harness wind energy were destroyed.
Having experienced violent storms in the past, many people told me that they knew a cyclone was on its way but underestimated its violence. It will take several more weeks to clear the debris and repair roofs, buildings and windmills. But apart from these reminders of the ferocity that was cyclone Thane, life seems to go on as usual with no damage to people’s spirits.