Cyclone Gaja: Heavy rains hit relief work in affected areas, cut short TN CM’s visit

Published on Nov 20, 2018 08:46 PM IST

The deadly storm, which claimed 45 lives, had damaged over one lakh houses and uprooted lakhs of trees and thousands of electric poles in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai among other districts in the region. With power supply yet to be restored in many affected places and relief and restoration works yet to gain momentum, the heavy rains due to a low pressure area in the Bay of Bengal comes as another big blow.

A fallen coconut tree due to the cyclone Gaja damages a house in Anaikkadu of Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu (File Photo)(HT)
A fallen coconut tree due to the cyclone Gaja damages a house in Anaikkadu of Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu (File Photo)(HT)
Hindustan Times, Chennai | ByMC Rajan & M Manikandan

Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery delta districts, still reeling from the onslaught of cyclone Gaja, faced more woes as relief and restoration works were hit by heavy rains which continued to pound the region on Tuesday. Even Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who visited the affected places five days after the storm, had to cut short his programme.

The deadly storm, which claimed 45 lives, had damaged over one lakh houses and uprooted lakhs of trees and thousands of electric poles in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai among other districts in the region. With power supply yet to be restored in many affected places and relief and restoration works yet to gain momentum, the heavy rains due to a low pressure area in the Bay of Bengal comes as another big blow.

The chief minister, who landed in Pudukottai, visited a couple of places and arrived at Tiruvaru, only to cancel his engagements due to the incessant heavy downpour.

After distributing solatium and relief material to a few beneficiaries, Palaniswami told the media that an early appointment had been sought to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apprise him of the grave situation prevailing in the cyclone-hit region and seek funds to speed up massive relief and restoration works.

“We are hopeful of getting an appointment to meet the PM by tomorrow or the day after. We have sought an early appointment,” he said while responding to a reporter’s query at Mappillaiyarkuppam.

On declaring the calamity as a national disaster and securing adequate funds from the Union government, he said, “It will be taken up with the Centre. We will impress upon the Centre about the vast extent of the calamity and the grave situation prevailing here”.

Palaniswami also appealed to the people to extend assistance to those affected by the cyclone. He assured that no one who has been affected would be left out. “The process of assessment is yet to be completed and it will be a comprehensive one,” he added.

The delayed visit of the CM and its cancellation midway, has not gone down well with the people in the affected areas. Already, people have started venting their anger at the ruling AIADMK for the poor facilities at the relief camps and the lack of food and medical aid.

The past few days witnessed state handloom minister OS Manian being attacked by angry protesters in his native Nagapattinam district, police vehicles getting torched and a deputy superintendent of police attacked by a mob near Pudukottai. Road blockades were also reported from many places.

Reacting to the CM cutting short his visit, DMK president MK Stalin said, “It has been five days since the cyclone-ravaged the delta districts and the CM is visiting by a helicopter only now. When the people needed the government most, he was cutting ribbons, ignoring the sufferings of the cyclone victims. What is the use of the government announcing Rs 1000 crore for relief works without assessing the extent of the colossal damage.”

To this, deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam said that the government is waiting for a comprehensive report. “Officials have not assessed the full damage till now as the interior parts were remain cut off,” he said.

Film personalities and others have come forward in donating liberally to the CM’s General Relief Fund. Matinee icon Rajinikanth has given Rs.50 lakh, while City Union Bank, Lyca productions, director Shankar, national award-winning lyricist Vairamuthu and actor Vijay have also contributed.

Stepping in, Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench has directed both the Centre and the state to file a report on the extent of damages caused by the cyclone and the measures taken so far.

Meanwhile, the Met office warned that more than 30 cm rain would lash the coastal stretch from Nagapattinam to Chennai with winds up to 70 kmph.

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