Death toll hits 33 as cyclone wreaks havoc in Tamil Nadu

Cyclone Gaja slammed into Tamil Nadu last Friday with winds of up to 120kmh, wrecking homes and uprooting trees, as seen in this photo on social media. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • The death toll from a cyclone that battered India's eastern coast has reached 33, a disaster official said yesterday, as the authorities assessed the damage caused by the powerful storm.

Cyclone Gaja, which packed winds of up to 120kmh, barrelled into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast last Friday. Thousands of trees were felled by winds that destroyed homes and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee to shelters.

"So far, 20 men, 11 women and two children have died due to the cyclone," said an official with the state disaster management authority, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

"As of now, 177,500 people are housed in over 351 camps. Thousands of trees have been uprooted and livestock has also been badly affected," he added.

Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who has announced compensation of US$14,000 (S$19,200) each to the families of victims, said most deaths were caused by flooding, house collapses and electrocution.

Hundreds of emergency workers have been deployed to help restore roads and power cables, as the full scale of the disaster becomes clear. A navy helicopter and two ships have joined relief efforts in the state, the local government said.


India's weather department said the cyclonic depression had moved westwards on Saturday into neighbouring Kerala state before continuing into the Arabian Sea.

Cyclone Gaja is the second major storm to hit India's east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Odisha state last month, killing at least two people.

Storms regularly hit southern India between April and December. Last year, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2018, with the headline 'Death toll hits 33 as cyclone wreaks havoc in Tamil Nadu'. Print Edition | Subscribe