Tanker Grounds as Cyclone Slams India’s Coast; 1 dead and 5 missing

Tropical Cyclone Nilam

Hurricane Sandy isn’t the only storm causing problems for mariners this week. In India, a powerful cyclone that has been brewing in the northern Indian Ocean for days forced an oil tanker to ground Wednesday afternoon along India’s southeastern coast near Chennai, killing one crew member and causing as many as five others to go missing.

According to the Times of India, heavy seas and winds up to 50 mph caused the MT Pratibha Cauvery, a 28,741 DWT tanker owned by Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping Company Limited, to slip anchor and drift to within 50 meters of Chennai’s Besant Nagar beach where it nearly capsized in the breaking waves.

Initial reports have indicated that the order was given to abandon ship, forcing all 22 crew onto life rafts. But the Times of India is reporting that local fisherman assisting in the rescue were only able to bring 16 ashore. So far one body has been recovered while 5 others are still missing.

At this point rescue and recovery efforts, including official word on the tanker grounding, are still be hampered by the severe weather which is expected to continue through at least Wednesday night.