Relief operations were under way in south India on Sunday as residents struggled to repair damaged homes and property after a cyclone that claimed 42 lives.

Cyclone Thane, packing winds of up to 140 kilometres (85 miles) an hour, struck the east coast on Friday between Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and the territory of Pondicherry before tearing inland, leaving a trail of destruction.

One French national was among seven people killed in Pondicherry, a former French enclave, government officials in Paris said without giving further details.

Indian President Pratibha Patil said in a statement after the winds weakened on Sunday that she was "saddened to learn about the loss of lives and damage of property."

"I am sure that the state government is making all efforts to provide help to families who lost their kin and those whose properties have been damaged," she added.

Most of the deaths occurred due to electrocution and walls collapsing. Roads blocked by falling trees were reopened on Sunday, while engineers were trying to restore power in the worst-hit district of Cuddalore.

The gale also pushed a cargo ship aground off Chennai and damaged 70 fishing boats.