India braces for Cyclone Gaja, puts navy on alert

Cyclonic storm Gaja approaching the east coast of Sri Lanka and India in the Bay of Bengal, on Nov 15, 2018.
Cyclonic storm Gaja approaching the east coast of Sri Lanka and India in the Bay of Bengal, on Nov 15, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue personnel were on standby and many more people were evacuated in southern India on Thursday (Nov 15) as the authorities braced for the arrival of Cyclone Gaja.

Schools were shut and fishing barred on the coastline of Tamil Nadu state in anticipation of the storm packing wind speeds of 80kmh-90kmh gusting to 100kmh, the authorities said.

The Hindustan Times reported that 87,000 people had been evacuated from Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu and that 30,500 rescue personnel were on standby.

The National Disaster Management Force deployed 15 teams across Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar islands, ahead of the cyclone warning.

Moving towards Tamil Nadu from south-west Bay of Bengal, the cyclone was expected to cross the state's coastline between Pamban and Cuddalore late on Thursday evening.

The disaster management authority in a tweet warned of a storm surge of about 1m likely to "inundate low-lying areas" of the state at the time of landfall.

Two naval ships equipped with divers, helicopters and inflatable boats were also docked to move to affected areas to provide relief and humanitarian aid, according to reports.