Cyclone Gaja ravages Tamil Nadu, over 20 feared dead

Storm causes heavy damage to 16th century Shrine Basilica at Velankanni.

Nagapattinam/ Chennai: Cyclone Gaja ripped through the Vedaranyam-Nagapattinam stretch early hours of Friday and claimed at least 20 lives on its trail of destruction from the coast into the delta districts as it unleashed heavy rain and winds of up to 125 kmph that uprooted trees and electric poles, destroyed crops and flattened hundreds of houses. The government, however, maintained that 13 had died due to the cyclone.

The worst is over for Tamil Nadu as the storm weakened passing across the southern tip and turned into a deep depression by the night bringing heavy rain to Kerala before moving into the Arabian Sea, according to the Met office.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami led the government efforts towards mitigating the sufferings of the people and the livestock in the storm as he kept in constant touch with his cabinet colleagues deployed to lead the teams of senior IAS officials in relief work in the Gaja-hit districts. He announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of those who died and Rs 25,000—Rs 1e lakh for those injured. The officials were in the process of assessing the damage in respect of crops, fishing boats, houses, and cattle, so as to enable the government to prepare its report for seeking adequate funds from the Centre to take up the repair and rehab works, the CM told reporters.

He said as many as 81,948 people have been moved out of their houses in vulnerable areas and accommodated in 471 relief centres in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Tiruvarur districts. Work on restoring power and repairing damaged roads and other infrastructure was going on at top speed, the CM said.

The storm caused heavy damage to the 16th century Shrine Basilica at Velankanni. The gusty winds caused the in Nagapattinam district. The gusty winds caused the rood cross on top of the church to break and fall. The 75-ft 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.

Farmers' leader P R Pandian told PTI that 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 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 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 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 nine-12 cm.

"The system has now become a depression and has entered land area of neighbouring Kerala through Dindigul and Theni districts," the sources said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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