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Cyclone Gaja: 20 Killed, Over 80,000 Evacuated as Storm Batters Coastal Tamil Nadu, Centre Assures Help

Gaja crossed the coast between Nagapattinam and nearby Vedaranyam, bringing with it heavy rain, and causing severe damage to communication and power infrastructure, mainly in Nagapattinam district.

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Updated:November 16, 2018, 10:44 PM IST
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Cyclone Gaja: 20 Killed, Over 80,000 Evacuated as Storm Batters Coastal Tamil Nadu, Centre Assures Help
A view of the damage caused by cyclone 'Gaja', after it hit Velankanni, in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, on Friday. (PTI)
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Salem: Severe cyclonic storm 'Gaja', which crossed Tamil Nadu's coast early on Friday, has claimed 20 lives. The winds due to the cyclonic storm resulted in hundreds of trees and electricity poles being uprooted in Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts. Other districts like Cuddalore and Puthukottai also bore the brunt of the cyclone.

'Gaja' crossed the coast between Nagapattinam and nearby Vedaranyam, bringing with it heavy rain, and causing severe damage to communication and power infrastructure, mainly in Nagapattinam district.

Speaking to reporters at Salem, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the relief work will be taken up on a war-footing and that the work was already underway. He said the families of the deceased will be provided a solatium of Rs 10 lakh each from the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund (CMPRF).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said all assistance would be provided to the people affected by the cyclone. Modi spoke to Palaniswami and learnt about various matters relating to the cyclone, including the damage caused by it and the post cyclone measures that are to be taken, an official release said. The prime minister also "assured (Palaniswami) that the Central government is ready to extend all assistance to people affected by the cyclone," it said.

The storm caused heavy damage to the 16th century Shrine Basilica at Velankanni in Nagapattinam district. Due to gusty winds, the rood cross on top of the church broke and fell, Church authorities said. The church is built in accordance with Gothic architecture. Authorities said 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.

Those with severe injuries will be provided with Rs 1 lakh each, while people who had sustained simple injuries will get Rs 25,000 as relief. The damage caused by Gaja, including to the fishing sector, was being assessed.

Over 80,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas as severe cyclonic storm 'Gaja' crossed the coast between Nagapattinam and nearby Vedaranyam early Friday, bringing with it heavy rains in coastal regions.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh also directed Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to monitor the situation in Tamil Nadu and provide all help to the state administration. "Spoke to CM Shri K Palaniswami regarding the situation in the cyclone affected areas of Tamil Nadu. Assured all possible assistance from the Centre in mitigating the situation arising due to cyclone. Asked the HS to monitor the situation & provide all help to the state admin (sic)," Singh tweeted.

An official release in Chennai said a "detailed report" will be sent to the Centre on the damage caused by the severe cyclonic storm. "Chief Minister Palaniswami explained in detail the measures taken by the state government, the damage caused by 'Gaja', and the relief measures being taken up on a war-footing," it said.

In a rare move, DMK President MK Stalin lauded the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority for its efforts to tackle the cyclone. The main opposition DMK appreciating a government body especially for its work during a natural disaster is rare. Stalin, who is the leader of the opposition said in a tweet, Tamil Nadu has been affected by a cyclone again and this time 'Gaja.'

"The way the @tnsdma (Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority) took preparatory efforts (to tackle the cyclone) is praiseworthy," he said. Stalin said the "rulers," an apparent reference to the ruling AIADMK should extend "cooperation," to the State agency for its work in the wake of the cyclone making a landfall. He, however, said it is "necessary for the government machinery to act with the speed of a storm in taking up relief work."

The Dravidian major relentlessly targeted the ruling AIADMK over the 2015 Chennai floods and for not taking appropriate steps to prevent the deluge. Stalin also urged his party men to take up relief work and work alongside the government in carrying out relief operations.
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