Decembers do not seem to auger well for Tamil Nadu. The month often brings with it heavy rains and cyclones – due to the northeast monsoon that hits the state around this time – and for some odd reason, has also seen more than its fair share of deaths of beloved leaders.
Here are five of the worst things to have hit the state in this fateful month over the past years:
The state’s ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ – revolutionary leader – died of a cardiac arrest at Apollo hospital on December 5, 2016, after a prolonged period of hospitalisation. The five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa was a much beloved and idolised figure, lovingly called Amma. Her death shocked the state, which went into mourning, with hundreds reported to have died of shock.
Regarded as one of the most iconic actors in the Tamil film industry, MGR also made a popular leader and served as the state’s chief minister for ten years. He died, aged 71, in his house in Chennai on December 24, 1987, after months of illness. The news plunged Tamil Nadu into sorrow, also triggering violence and looting across the state. 29 people reportedly died in the violence at his funeral alone, while dozens committed suicide in the days to follow.
‘Periyar’ E V Ramasamy’s death
The social activist, freedom fighter and politician, commonly called Periyar, died on December 24, 1973, at the age of 94. Called the ‘Socrates of South East Asia’ by the UNESCO, Periyar had been prolific in his work against caste-based discrimination and the establishment of Tamil identity and alphabet, among other things. After his death, his followers and wife carried on his work, organising conferences and demonstrations across the state.
An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, triggered a massive tsunami that killed more than 2.5 lakh people in 14 countries. Tamil Nadu was among the worst hit in mainland India, with over 8,000 deaths caused by the seismic event. More than 6,000 people died in the district of Nagapattinam alone. Kanyakumari, Cuddalore, Velankanni and parts of Chennai district were also left devastated.
Cyclones and inclement weather
The state, along with neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, has been on the receiving end of several cyclones and deep depressions over the past Decembers. Among others, 2005’s cyclone Fanoos saw 25,000 Tamilians being evacuated and crops destroyed, while in 2011, cyclone Thane left at least 46 dead. Last December began with flooding in the state, which caused damages worth over Rs 8,481 crore and killed hundreds. The more recent – also ‘very severe’ – cyclone Vardah that hit the state on December 12, left at least 12 dead in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.