Chennai: An intensified Cyclone Gaja is all set to make landfall in southern Nagapattinam district. According to the India Meteorological Department’s 9.30 pm update, it is very likely to cross the Tamil Nadu coast between Pamban and Cuddalore, south of Nagapattinam, by the early hours of 16 November, with wind speeds of 90-100 kmph, gusting to 110 kmph. After its landfall, it will get weaker as it moves towards the Arabian Sea. Extremely heavy rainfall of more than 20 centimetres is likely to occur over the districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram and Thoothukudi.
The Tamil Nadu government has set up various control rooms and is monitoring the cyclone-related efforts continuously. Up until 9.30 pm, over 55,078 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas in coastal districts to 262 relief centres. This includes 44,087 in Nagapattinam; 5,189 in Tiruvarur; 4,027 in Cuddalore; 770 in Ramanathapuram; 713 in Thanjavur and 292 in Pudukkottai. About 70 residents of Dhanushkodi have been shifted to a cyclone shelter located in Karaiyur. In Ramanathapuram district alone, 23 multi-functional cyclone shelters, 32 schools, 2 colleges and 91 marriage halls have been readied to accommodate those who may still need to be evacuated. In Pudhukottai district, 56 fishing villages have been evacuated completely to relief camps where food and medical assistance is being provided. Across the coast, 405 ambulances are on standby.
Schools and colleges are closed on Friday in all coastal districts of the state and bus services have been halted in these areas between 6 pm on Thursday till 6 am on Friday. The Tamil Nadu electricity board has shut down power in some districts and all shops and commercial establishments have shut early on Thursday.
“We are on alert in case damaged poles and electrical lines need to be replaced; control rooms have been set up to monitor the electricity requirements of the state. JCBs and other heavy equipment are in place to remove uprooted trees. We will assess damages caused by Gaja and will send the same to the central government. They will release the required funds, if needed,” Revenue and Disaster Management minister RB Udhayakumar said.
Ramanathapuram district monitoring officer Chandra Mohan advised people to avoid travelling while the cyclone makes landfall. "People should close their doors and windows and not park their vehicles under trees. They should keep ready medicines, candles and torch lights, and ensure that cattle are moved to a safer place," he added.
Ramanathapuram district collector K Veera Raghava Rao instructed telecom service providers including BSNL, Airtel, Vodafone and Jio to ensure uninterrupted power supply to their cellphone towers. Petrol bunks have been instructed to keep the necessary fuel stock. The fisheries department in Kanniyakumari has banned fisherfolk from entering the sea till 17 November or until after the cyclone has passed through the state. More than 8,000 boats have been brought to shore in the district.
Speaking from the 24/7 control room established in Nagercoil, district collector Prashant M Wadnere said that the 48 coastal villages in this district have been divided into nine zones and a dedicated team will be monitoring each zone. In Cuddalore district, monitoring officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi has said that all the measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the people. He also said a community radio has been launched to keep the public updated on the cyclone. He added that the boats of fisherfolk have been parked in safer places so that they don’t sustain any damages.
Wind velocity is high along the Puducherry sea coast and the government has asked people not to come out of their homes. A holiday has been announced for schools and colleges on Friday here. The bus service has been shut along the ECR stretch and in the entire union territory. Movie screenings tonight have also been cancelled.
With inputs from Mydeen Abdul Kadar
(The authors are Chennai-based freelance writers and part of 101Reporters)
Updated Date: Nov 15, 2018 23:58 PM