45 dead as Cyclone Gaja rips through Tamil Nadu, Puducherry2 min read . Updated: 19 Nov 2018, 07:15 AM IST
More than 250,000 people have been evacuated and moved to relief centres after two days of mayhem
Chennai: At least 45 people were killed and about 250,000 people were evacuated to relief camps in the last two days after severe cyclonic storm Gaja hit the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the wee hours of Friday.
Gaja made its landfall with wind speeds of 120 km per hour, leaving behind a huge trail of destruction in the districts of Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai, Dindigul, Trichy, Karur, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal in the Union territory of Puducherry.
According to Chennai-based weather blogger Pradeep John, Gaja has been the worst cyclone to hit Tamil Nadu since Vardah in 2016, and the worst to affect the Cauvery delta since the cyclone in 1993.
On 16 November, the state government had announced a sum of ₹ 10 lakh for the families of the deceased, ₹ 1 lakh for the severely injured, and ₹ 25,000 for those with minor injuries. According to the government, 249,083 people were moved to 493 relief camps.
Relief workers are trying hard to reach remote and inaccessible areas of Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Pudukottai. The regions in the delta have remained without power supply since Thursday. More than 117,000 houses, including thatched huts and tiled roof houses, have been partially or fully damaged.
The extensive damage to coconut and banana plantations, paddy and other standing crops are yet to be assessed. In a statement, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said revenue and the agricultural department officials have been directed to estimate the damage to crops.
According to state government estimates, 170,454 trees and 39,938 electric poles were uprooted, while over 100 cattle and 600 goats were killed in the cyclone. The government has announced compensations of ₹ 30,000 for cattle loss and ₹ 3,000 for goats. Carcasses of a large number of animals and birds, suspected to be from Kodiyakarai Wildlife Sanctuary, washed ashore on Karaikal beach, which falls under Puducherry’s administration.
On Sunday, Palaniswami deputed additional officials to expedite the relief work in Pudukottai, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam.
Opposition leader and president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam M.K. Stalin, who had appreciated the precautionary steps taken by the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority, said: “I had praised the government for its preparedness to face the cyclone, but the relief work looks very pathetic. Why is the chief minister hesitant to visit the cyclone affected areas?"
Given that 3,559km of electricity transmission cables and 347 electric transformers were damaged in the cyclone, power supply is yet to resume in affected areas. The government said 12,532 officials from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board were working on the ground to restore electricity.
So far, 372 medical camps and 1,014 mobile medical units have been set up in the cyclone-affected districts, said the state government.
Chief minister Palaniswami is expected to visit Delhi this week to seek relief fund from the central government.