Chennai,Nov 16 2018: Over 20 people have been reportedly killed and several thousands more have been displaced in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry as a result of cyclonic storm ’Gaja’, which made landfall early Friday between coasts of Nagapattinam and Vedaranniyam.
The casualties, caused as a result of either wall collapse or uprooting of trees, are reported in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Adiramapattinam, Thiruchitrambalam, Orathanadu, Melattur and Peravurani districts.
The latest IMD bulletin on ’Gaja’ says the wind speed was 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph during the landfall. "It moved nearly westward, weakened into a cyclonic storm and lay centred at 0530 hours IST of today, the 16th November, 2018, over coastal Tamilnadu near latitude 10.4°N and longitude 79.2°E, about 20 km west-northwest of Atiramapattinam. It is very likely to move westward and weakened into a deep depression during next 06 hours."
The bulletin, posted at 8:30 AM goes on to say that "the remnant of the above system after landfall is likely to emerge as a low pressure area over Southeast Arabian Sea around 17th November. It is likely to become more marked and move westwards during subsequent 24 hours."
The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority has said that as many as 76,290 people were evacuated from low lying areas and sheltered at over 300 relief centres in six districts including Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram and Tiruvarur.
The cyclone delayed its landfall — the IMD had predicted that the landfall would happen between 8 pm and 11 pm on Thursday evening — and even changed its direction more than once on Thursday. The IMD kept issuing bulletins through the day correcting the direction and time of the landfall every now and then. In its latest update issued a little after 9 pm, the IMD said the cyclone would cross Tamil Nadu coast between Pamban and Cuddalore to the south of Nagapattinam in the early hours of Friday.
“Outer band of the system has already entered coast and rainfall has commenced over coastal areas of Tamil Nadu,” the IMD said, adding that it will make land as a severe cyclonic storm packing winds 110 kmph. The state government took put entire administration on high alert since Thursday morning and moved more than 55,000 people to relief camps by Thursday evening. More than 44,000 people living in low lying areas and in the vicinity of the sea in Nagapattinam district were brought to safety and accommodated at cyclone relief centres.
Over 30,000 personnel including first respondents were pressed into service by the government as part of its preparedness and local administration in the six districts declared holiday for schools and colleges on Friday as well.
It also kept ready 405 ambulance vehicles in six districts to handle any eventuality even as the government appealed to the people not to come anywhere near the sea shore. Government used social media to alert people about the cyclone and asked them not to panic and not to believe rumours about the cyclone. The government issued periodic bulletins and ministers hailing from the six districts were on the ground as Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami monitored the preparations,
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached Cuddalore and Nagapattinam district to assist state officials in case of any eventuality after the Cyclone. Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) said it has kept its personnel ready to restore power lines if they come under attack due to the cyclone, while the district administrations have kept tree cutters and other equipment ready to clear blockage of roads, if any.
The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Response Force also people using smartphones to download TNSMART Mobile App, conceptualized by Satyagopal, for receiving forecast based alerts to “save lives & movable assets.”
Meanwhile, Southern Railways has cancelled train services to Velankanni in Nagapattinam district and the Rameswaram island due to the cyclone. It also diverted many trains passing through Thanjavur and Tiruvarur.