Cyclone kills 11 in southern India state of Tamil Nadu as 80,000 evacuated from low-lying areas

  • Cyclone Gaja packed winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour as it barrelled into the coast near Nagapattinam early on Friday, bringing heavy rains
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 4:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 4:58pm

At least 11 people were reported dead on Friday as a powerful cyclone battered India’s eastern coast.

Thousands of trees were felled by winds that destroyed homes and vehicles as hundreds of thousands fled for shelter.

Cyclone Gaja packed winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour as it barrelled into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast near Nagapattinam early on Friday bringing heavy rains, India’s weather office said.

The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party in the prosperous state said on Twitter that 11 people were killed in the powerful storm that has flooded several low-lying areas along the coastline of the Bay of Bengal.

It provided no further details about the victims.

The government has announced compensation of one million rupees (US$14,000) to victims’ families as hundreds of emergency workers were trying to restore roads and electricity.

The storm was predicted to move westwards and gradually weaken before heading into the Arabian Sea, the India Meteorological Department said.

Torrential rain caused waterlogging and threatened landslides. There were widespread power outages in the region.

Authorities closed schools and colleges and thousands of emergency workers were on standby along with two naval ships with divers, helicopters and inflatable boats.

Fishermen have been warned since Sunday not to risk going out to sea.

Gaja is the second major storm to hit India’s east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Orissa state in October, 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.

Narendra Kumar, an official of the National Disaster Response Force, said Cyclone Gaja hit coastal areas of Tamil Nadu state early on Friday, toppling trees and electric poles and damaging homes.

More than 80,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas into more than 470 relief centres in six districts.

The disaster agency says the cyclone is weakening. Tamil Nadu state is prone to cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal.