Cyclone Gaja: Thousands evacuated in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry; disaster management apparatus activated

G.Dhanabal | Nov 14, 2018 | 4 min read



V Dhanabalan 

Chennai: Gaja is continually gathering speed as it moves towards the Tamil Nadu coast. It has already developed into a severe tropical cyclone and will cross the coast with a wind speed of 80 to 90 km per hour, gusting up to 110 km per hour, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

Gaja, with a storm core that is 38 km wide and a speed of 17 kmph, was 320 km east-southeast of Chennai and 300 km east-northeast of Nagapattinam as of 12.15 pm on Thursday and will bring heavy rainfall and high velocity winds in the Cauvery delta, particularly in eight districts across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, namely Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Nagai, Pudukkottai and Ramanathapuram.

The coastal districts' Disaster Management Teams are on high alert. Additional medical teams, inflatable rubber boats, ambulances and relief materials have been requisitioned in adequate numbers and people residing in coastal and low lying areas are being evacuated, according to Tamil Nadu Revenue and Disaster Management Minister RB Udhayakumar.

Today he also inaugurated at Chepauk in Chennai, a pilot control centre to monitor early warning systems in coastal areas, specifically in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. The project has been implemented and maintained by ELCOT, Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu at the cost of Rs 50 crore. In order to be able to alert the public to evacuate to safer places during such disasters, the project will compile and transmit warnings from the Indian Meteorological Center and Indian Maritime Information Centers. A special feature of this system is its ability to select and distribute exclusive emergency information to a specific region affected by the disaster. The 24/7 control room at Chennai will also handle cyclone-related helplines, he said, warning of stringent action against those who spread rumours on social media.

The Indian Navy has been put on high alert and the Eastern Naval Command based in Visakhapatnam said that the Rajput-class destroyer INS Ranvir and Khukri-class corvette INS Khanjar are on standby for rescue operations. Helicopters, Dornier aircraft and one P-8I aircraft are also on standby to undertake reconnaissance, rescue and casualty evacuation, navy officials said.

Fishermen along the coast have been advised not to venture into the sea. More than 500 mechanised boats have been parked safely at the Karaikal harbour and 300 fishing boats are docked at Thengaithittu harbour in Pondicherry. In Chennai’s busy Kasimedu harbour, more than 2,000 mechanised boats have been anchored. Cyclone warning signal flags have been hoisted in all major ports including Pamban.

Schools and colleges declared a holiday on Thursday at Puducherry and Karaikal. The exams scheduled at Pondicherry University stand cancelled. The examinations scheduled for the affiliated colleges of Anna University Chennai on 15 November have been postponed to a later date. However, the examinations scheduled for the University Departments (College of Engineering, Guindy, Alagappa College of Technology, Madras Institute of Technology and School of Architecture and Planning) will be conducted as scheduled. The examinations scheduled at Bharathidasan University, Thiruvalluvar University and Alagappa University and its affiliated colleges also stand cancelled.

The special officer deputed for Nagapattinam district, Tenkasi S Jawahar said that nearly 86,000 people will be evacuated from the identified low lying areas. District collector Suresh Kumar also said that electricity will be disconnected in Vedaranyam town during the night hours as a safety measure. Cuddalore district collector V Anbuselvan and Disaster Managment Incharge Gagandeep Singh Bedi held a review meeting this morning on preparedness and post-cyclone scenario. V Anbuselvan has said that inter-department zonal teams have been constituted with representatives from public works department, police, fire, electricity, revenue and local body officials to monitor vulnerable areas. In addition to the permanent relief centres in Cuddalore, which can accommodate up to 25,000 people, temporary relief centres are also being prepared in wedding halls, government schools and community centres.

Southern railway cancelled ten trains destinated to Rameswaram on Thursday. Several other trains were also partially cancelled and are running only up until Madurai and Manamadurai junctions. Tourist venues like Dhanushkodi in Ramanathapuram district are closed.

Meanwhile, mild rainfall has started in Chennai’s Nungambakkam, Anna Salai, Alwarpet, and Kodambakkam areas. It has been drizzling in Nagapattinam town and high tides have been witnessed in the coastal villages of Keechankuppam and Akkaraipettai in the district. Heavy rains with thunderstorm have begun in Puducherry. Puducherry chief minister Narayanswamy advised residents to stay indoors and assured the public that the government is prepared to face the storm.

The author is a Chennai-based freelance writer and a part of 101Reporters.

With inputs from Mydeen Abdul Kadar

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