Gaja toll touches 49 in TN, Thousands lose houses

Cyclone Gaja has devastated many parts of central Tamilnadu and relief works are on in full swing.

Chennai: The severe cyclonic storm Gaja has left behind a trail of havoc and destruction with the death toll touching 49 today. While the government said that 36 persons had lost their lives, sources say the the actual figure is 49 so far.

Thousands have lost their homes, many animals (including deer at Kodiyakarai) have died, more than 50,000 trees were uprooted and Vedaranyam is completely battered, all due to Gaja.

Even as reports claimed that the affected people staged protests at some places demanding relief, Ministers have been personally supervising restoration works by staying in the affected areas, even as the Central government has assured all help.

Gaja ripped through Nagapattinam early Friday uprooting trees and snapping power lines leaving a trail of destruction in coastal districts besides claiming lives and flooding standing crops. The cyclonic storm crossed Tamilnadu’s coast between
Nagapattinam and nearby Vedaranyam early hours Friday, bringing in heavy rains in the coastal regions. Winds gusting upto 120 kmph uprooted trees, snapped electric cables and blew off roofing-sheets.

Forty nine people lost their lives in cyclone related incidents despite authorities evacuating as many as 81,948 people to 471 relief centres in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Tiruvarur districts.

Expressing grief over the deaths, Chief Minister K Palaniswami sanctioned a solatium of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of those who died and Rs 25,000-Rs one lakh for the injured.

Farmers’ leader P R Pandian told PTI lakhs of coconut trees, plantain and acres of paddy crop have been seriously affected due to the gusty winds. He demanded adequate compensation for the farmers. State owned Tamilnadu Generation and Distribution Corporation’s field assets including 13,025 electricity poles, 13 local distribution transformers, and 1,000 cables were damaged in rain-related incidents.

The heavy rain in districts, including Tiruvarur and Thanjavur and widespread rain in other parts, has come as a boon to the State which was staring at a rainfall deficit during the monsoon season which commenced 1 October. “Now the deficit stands at 23 per cent. The rainfall ranged between the lowest of 1 cm in several towns to the highest of 17 cm in Tiruvarur district followed by 16 cm in Thanjavur,” a Met official said.

Power supply has been suspended since Thursday evening in Nagapattinam district. Traffic remains disrupted in most parts of Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts. Revenue Minister R B Udaya Kumar told reporters that the government has tackled the cyclone situation successfully. “This was a challenging task…we are confident that we have faced it safely 100 per cent,” he said, adding all post-cyclone tasks like cleaning up storm affected areas has begun.

In a rare gesture, DMK president and opposition leader M K Stalin lauded the State Disaster Management Authority for its efforts to tackle the severe cyclonic storm.

NT Bureau