Relief operations gathered pace in cyclone ‘Gaja’-hit districts of Tamil Nadu Monday even as sporadic protests by the affected people demanding quick assistance continued in various places for the second day. Chief Minister K Palaniswami took stock of the situation at a high-level meeting here attended by his cabinet colleagues and officials in the aftermath of the cyclone that crossed the state coast near Vedaranyam on Friday, causing devastation in six coastal districts and claiming 45 lives.
President Ram Nath Kovind spoke to Palaniswami and enquired about the situation. Reports received here painted a grim picture of the affected districts where the farm sector had taken a severe hit as crops in large swathe of lands had been damaged and nearly two lakh trees, including coconut and plantain, uprooted, leaving the farmers in acute distress. Life was limping back to normalcy in urban areas with electricity being restored gradually, the reports said.
Several ministers were deputed to the affected districts to oversee and speed up relief operations. Over 1.31 lakh people had been accommodated in relief camps in the badly-hit Nagapattinam district which was visited Monday by five ministers, including P Thangamani (Electricity) and S P Velumani as part of efforts to speed up relief and restoration works.
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Protests were held by residents in parts of Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, demanding early restoration of power and drinking water supply. Facing flak over alleged tardy relief measures, the state government Monday said people should not think that only such protests would solve their problems and asserted it was working to reach out to all.
President Kovind wrote on his official Twitter handle that he spoke with the chief minister and enquired about the situation in the aftermath of the cyclone. “Spoke to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and enquired about the situation in the aftermath of Cyclone Gaja, expressed condolences to bereaved families,” he said.
“People and government of India are standing by those in distress in the state. #PresidentKovind,” he added. Palaniswami held a meeting with his cabinet colleagues, including deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, and senior IAS officials here. A brief official release said the chief minister took stock of the ongoing relief activities, besides discussing the further steps to be taken by the government.
The cyclone which crossed the coast with a speed of up to 120 kmph has left a trail of destruction, uprooting 1.7 lakh trees and damaging 88,102 hectares of agricultural land. It caused severe damage in the districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Tiruvarur in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal in neighbouring Puducherry.
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Principal opposition DMK announced contribution of one month’s salary of its MPs and MLAs towards cyclone relief activities besides Rs one crore from the DMK Trust for the purpose. Amid the continuing protests, Revenue Minister R B Udayakumar said the government was reaching out to all concerned and that people should not think that only agitations will draw its attention to their issues.
“Drinking water is provided (in the affected areas) and power is being given through gensets, even as we have adequate stocks in ration shops,” he told reporters here. He claimed people with ‘anti-social mentality’ were behind such protests and asked the public to shun them. On Sunday, irate people in Kotthamangalam village in Puthukottai district had gone on a rampage, setting ablaze several government vehicles and clashed with the police, protesting alleged failure of officials to provide them relief.
Meanwhile, Electricity Minister Thangamani said the department had suffered significant losses in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Puthukottai and Thiruvarur districts. Over 98,000 electric poles and 846 transformers have been severely damaged and nearly 15,000 workers were enaged in restoration works, he said. Power supply was being restored on a ‘war-footing’ and additional manpower had been sought from neighbouring states including Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, he told reporters in Nagapattinam. Supply had been restored in town areas and for hospitals, he added.
The Health Ministry said that over 1,700 medical camps have been held and about 1.06 lakh people screened as part of preventive measures in affected areas. Drinking water was being chlorinated to prevent outbreak of any epidemic even as private water tankers were also being monitored, a department release said. Defogging operations and spraying of disinfectants were also being carried out.