13 killed as Gaja cyclone makes landfall in Tamil Nadu coast

Chennai: A severe cyclonic storm Gaja battered the Tamil Nadu coast on Friday, leaving at least 13 people and several livestock dead and a trail of destruction in several districts.

Authorities said the cyclone crossed the coast between Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam districts between 12.30 a.m. and 2.30 a.m. with wind speeds of about 110-120 kmph.

So powerful were the gales that the roof-sheets of the Nagapattinam railway station were damaged. Thatched and tiled roofs of several houses were also damaged in the strong cyclonic winds.

A ship was ground in Karaikal Port in Puducherry.

Traffic on the highways were affected owing to fallen trees while communication links in Vedaranyam were also affected.

Traffic out of hill station Kodaikanal was affected due to fallen trees.

In some places like Pudukottai walls of houses collapsed due to rains.

Apart from fallen 12,000 power poles in seven districts, 102 power sub-stations in districts like Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur were affected.

According to the state power utility, about 500 km of power supply lines were affected by Gaja. Officials said it would take at least two days to restore power supply in full in districts like Nagapattinam and Thiruvarur.

Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said in Salem, some 350 km from the state capital, that 13 persons had lost their lives in the cyclone.

He said a sum of Rs 10 lakh would be paid to each family of the dead. For those severely injured, a sum of Rs 100,000 would be paid and those who suffered minor injuries would get Rs 25,000.

About 82,000 people living in low-lying areas have been sent to 471 relief centres, the Chief Minister said, adding the preventive measures helped keep the death toll low.

Relief centres were set up in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Thiruvarur on Thursday itself.

According to officials, 28 livestocks were killed in cyclone.

Owing to strong winds an Indigo Airlines Chennai-Trichy flight was not able to land in Trichy and was sent back.

R.B. Udhyakumar, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management, said all the trees felled by the cyclone were being removed.

Piles of felled trees blocked traffic in parts of Nagapattinam and Vedaranyum.

Several universities in Tamil Nadu have postponed their exams slated for Friday. Schools remained closed on Friday in Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Thiruvarur and several other districts in Tamil Nadu and in Puducherry, including Karaikal.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast scattered heavy to very heavy rain over Tiruchirapalli, Namakkal, Dindigul, Madurai, Theni, Karur, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Nilgiris and Virudhunagar districts of Tamil Nadu.

According to Chief Minister Palaniswami, the Fisheries Department will estimate the damage to the fishing boats before paying compensation to the fishermen.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Minister Palaniswami and enquired about the cyclone damage.