Cyclone Gaja claims 13 lives as it crosses Tamil Nadu coast

Updated: Nov 17, 2018, 12:10 IST | Agencies | Nagapattinam/Chennai

Apart from causing heavy rain, the cyclone has damaged communication, power infrastructure

Government is still in the process of assessing the damage caused by Gaja.
Government is still in the process of assessing the damage caused by Gaja.

Cyclone Gaja ripped through Nagapattinam early on Friday uprooting trees and snapping power lines leaving a trail of destruction in coastal districts besides claiming 13 lives and flooding standing crops. The cyclonic storm crossed Tamil Nadu's coast between Nagapattinam and nearby Vedaranyam in the early hours of Friday, bringing in heavy rain in the coastal regions, according to a weather bulletin.

Winds of speed 120 kmph uprooted trees, snapped electric cables and blew off roofing-sheets. According to officials, 10 men and three women died and 28 cattle perished 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.

Residents clear fallen trees in Nagapattinam. Pics/PTI
Residents clear fallen trees in Nagapattinam. Pics/PTI

The storm caused heavy damage to the 16th century Shrine Basilica at Velankanni in Nagapattinam district. Due to gusty winds, the rood cross on top of the church broke and fell, the church authorities said. The church is built in accordance with Gothic architecture. Authorities said the 75-feet tall stone statue of Jesus erected in front of the 'Morning Star Church' in the town, sustained structural damage. According to church officials, the hands of the statue have suffered damage. The roof of the Museum of Offerings in the town has also been damaged.

Expressing grief over the deaths, Chief Minister K Palaniswami sanctioned a solatium of `10 lakh to the kin of those who died and Rs 25,000 for the injured. The chief minister said he has ordered officials to immediately determine the extent of loss and damage in respect of crops, fishing boats, houses, and cattle due to the cyclone.

Ganja Claim

"I have ordered relief efforts on a war-footing in the affected districts," he said, adding ministers were carrying out work in districts assigned to them. Besides loss of lives, 1,471 huts were partially damaged and 216 fully destroyed. A total of 4,987 trees got uprooted in these districts.

Farmers' leader P R Pandian said lakhs of coconut trees, plantain and acres of paddy crop have been affected due to the gusty winds. He demanded adequate compensation for the farmers. State-owned Tamil Nadu 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 rainfall 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 on October 1.

"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. According to weather office sources, six cm rain was reported in Nagapattinam district, which bore the brunt of the storm, while Cuddalore district reported rainfall between 9-12 cm.

Centre didn't sanction funds: CM
Tamil Nadu government on Friday alleged that the Centre had not sanctioned funds sought by it in the wake of natural disasters such as cyclones, saying this was the case with both the NDA dispensation and its predecessor, the UPA. The accusation comes on a day when cyclone Gaja crosses the state's coast killing 13 people and causing severe damage to communication and power infrastructure, mainly in Nagapattinam district.

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