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Death toll in Cyclone Gaja rises to 45, relief ops on war footing underway

Death toll in Cyclone Gaja rises to 45, relief ops on war footing underway
A view of the damage caused by cyclone ‘Gaja’, after it hit Velankanni, in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu on Friday. (Photo: PTI)

Salem: The toll in cyclone Gaja has touched 45, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said on Sunday and appealed to leaders of all political parties to take part in the relief activities.

He said the relief operations were going on a war footing in the districts affected by the cyclonic storm and state ministers have been deployed in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, and Pudukottai to monitor it. The state government is collecting details about areas which have been badly affected by the cyclone, Palaniswami told reporters here.

“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,” the Chief Minister said.

The Tamil Nadu government has announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh to family of each of the deceased from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund (CMPRF). Those with severe injuries would be provided with Rs 1 lakh each while those whose injuries are not grievous in nature would get Rs 25,000 compensation.

Palaniswami said 1.7 lakh trees have been uprooted, 735 cattle died, 1.17 lakh houses damaged and 88,102 hectare agricultural land has been affected in coastal districts. 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.

Responding to a question, Palaniswami urged all political leaders and people to extend a helping hand in this time of need.

“It is a natural calamity. There should not be any differences like opposition, ruling party in taking up relief operations. I appeal to everyone to help the affected people,” he said.

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. 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, we are facing challenges in removing uprooted trees and replacing the damaged electricity poles,” he said. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam visited Nagapattinam and said relief works in affected districts were going on a war footing and normalcy would be restored soon.