By Elton Gomes
After intensifying into a severe cyclonic storm on Thursday afternoon, cyclone Gaja is expected to make a landfall between Pamban and Cuddalore by Thursday evening or late night. Currently, the cyclonic storm is 125 kilometres southeast of Nagapattinam.
As Gaja makes its landfall, 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 Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted.
The cyclone is expected to weaken before crossing and making a landfall across the Tamil Nadu coast between Pamban and Cuddalore on Thursday evening, with wind speeds touching 80-90 kmph (kilometres per hour) and gusts at times touching 100 kmph.
The storm moved further west-southwestwards with a speed of 17 kmph. As of 08.30 am IST (Indian Standard Time) on November 15, the storm lay centred over Southwest Bay of Bengal, about 320 km east-southeast of Chennai and 300 km east-northeast of Nagapattinam, the latest press release issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said, Financial Express reported.
The Tamil Nadu government said that it has kept 30,500 rescue personnel on stand-by. A total of 8,582 families from Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, and Ramanathapuram districts have been shifted to 19 relief centres as a precautionary measure, Tamil Nadu’s revenue minister R.B. Udhayakumar said. As another precautionary measure, police have asked people to stay away at Marina beach.
The IMD has warned that major damage could be caused to thatched huts/houses, and roof tops may blow off while unattached metal sheets may fly. Additionally, power and communication lines could be damaged. Major damages can be done to kutcha roads while pucca roads could see minor damages.
Tamil Nadu, Puducherry on high alert
The state governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have put in place several emergency measures to tackle the impact of cyclone Gaja.
On Wednesday, the Indian Navy was put on high alert as Gaja was approaching the coast of south Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Navy officials said the Eastern Naval Command has assumed a high degree of readiness to be prepared for necessary humanitarian assistance as the cyclone is expected to cross the Tamil Nadu coast.
A navy official told Live Mint that the ship will have additional divers, doctors, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopters, and relief material on board.
Which areas could be affected?
Cyclone Gaja could affect Karaikal in Puducherry while the coastal districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu could receive heavy to very heavy rainfall on Thursday.
It has been estimated that Chennai would be spared from Gaja’s onslaught though it would bring isolated rainfall.
The district collectors of Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Pudukottai, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram and Cuddalore had declared a holiday for schools and colleges on Thursday. All educational institutions in Puducherry and Karaikal regions were also closed.
The Indian Railways has cancelled all the train services in the districts that could be affected by cyclone Gaja.
What emergency measures have been taken?
Tamil Nadu’s revenue minister R.B. Udhayakumar has said the state government has taken all precautionary measures to face Cyclone Gaja.
“Eight National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and seven squads of the state disaster response force have been dispatched to Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin districts,” Udhayakumar said while speaking to the press on Wednesday.
“Besides setting up a 24-hour control room in Chennai, we have directed the district collectors to form rescue teams. Cyclone management committees have been formed in all the 2,559 vulnerable places. 410 zonal teams are also in place. Further, 22,495 people are ready to engage in rescue works,” he said.
Furthermore, additional medical teams, inflatable rubber boats, ambulances, and relief materials have been requisitioned in adequate numbers, Udhayakumar said further, as per a report in Firstpost.
Cuddalore district collector V. Anbuselvan and Disaster Managment Incharge Gagandeep Singh Bedi held a review meeting on Thursday morning to assess preparedness and post-cyclone scenarios.
Anbuselvan said that inter-department zonal teams have representatives from public works department, police, fire, electricity, revenue, and local body officials to monitor vulnerable areas.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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