Cyclone Gaja: Death toll rises to 45, protests break out over relief work

Cyclone Gaja Death toll rises to 45, protests break out over relief work

Salem: The toll in cyclone Gaja has touched 45, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said on Sunday and appealed to all political parties to join in the relief efforts while protests erupted in some districts over alleged failure to provide assistance to the affected people.

Palaniswami said 1.7 lakh trees had been uprooted, 735 cattle died, 1.17 lakh houses damaged and 88,102 hectare agricultural land affected in six districts due to the cyclone that crossed the Vedaranyam coast, near Nagapattinam, over 300 km from Chennai, early on Friday.

Relief and rehabilitation efforts continued in the districts affected by the cyclone while the worst-hit Vedaranyam town on Sunday saw more people seeking refuge in the 60 cyclone relief centres, leading to shortage of relief materials in some places.

A report from Pudukkottai said people in Kothamangalam village affected by the cyclone went on a rampage, protesting alleged failure of officials to provide them relief and set ablaze five government vehicles and clashed with police.

A Deputy Superintendent of Police was injured as the crowd clashed with the police after heated exchange while blocking road traffic protesting the officials’ ‘indifference’, police said.

Sixty people were arrested in connection with the violence, they said.

In Thanjavur, traffic was blocked by residents to protest the alleged failure to provide any relief to those affected by ‘Gaja’, which caused destruction in the districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Tiruvarur districts in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal in neighbouring Puducherry.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who visited Nagapattinam, said relief works in affected districts were going on a war footing and normalcy would be restored soon.

Denying reports that officials were not visiting the affected areas, he said false messages were being spread.

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Speaking to reporters in Salem, Palaniswami said the state government was collecting details about areas which have been badly affected by the cyclone and ministers were deployed to monitor the relief operations.

“In villages, lots of trees and standing crops have been damaged, affecting the livelihood of farmers. The extent of damage is being evaluated. Till now, 45 people have lost their lives due to cyclone,” he said.

The state government has announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those killed in the cyclone-related incidents.

People with severe injuries would be provided Rs one lakh each while those whose with minor wounds would get Rs 25,000 as compensation.

Nearly 2.50 lakh people were provided accommodation in 483 relief camps. Besides, 1,014 mobile medical vans have been set up and so far one lakh people in affected areas have benefited from it, the chief minister said.

Noting that 39,938 electric poles and 347 transformers were damaged in the affected districts, he said 12,532 men of the state electricity board have been despatched to take up the repair work.

Urging all political leaders and people to extend a helping hand in this time of need, the Chief Minister said, “There should not be any differences like opposition, ruling party in taking up relief operations. I appeal to everyone to help the affected people.”

Asked whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit Tamil Nadu, he said the state government has informed the Centre about the damage caused by the cyclone.

Modi had already spoken to Palaniswami and assured all help to the state.

On whether the government would seek the Army’s assistance, Palaniswami said, “As of now officials and ministers have been directed to visit the affected places. If required we will seek assistance from the Centre.”

“Currently, were are facing challenges in removing uprooted trees and replacing the damaged electricity poles,” he said.