Tropical Cyclone “Gaja” makes landfall in Tamil Nadu, leaving at least 28 people dead

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Tropical Cyclone “Gaja” made in Tamil Nadu, India, between Nagapattinam and Vedarannyam, on November 15, 2018, with maximum sustained winds up to 139 km/h (83 mph). This made it a Category 1 hurricane equivalent on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. 

The storm brought heavy rain and strong winds to Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and areas of South Interior Karnataka and Kerala. According to latest reports, at least 28 people were killed in floods, landslides and other weather-related incidents. The death toll is expected to rise.

As many as 81 948 people were forced to evacuate and are now temporarily housed in 471 relief centers.

The heavy rains have largely affected Munnar, one of the main tourist destinations in Idukki, and traffic was partially disrupted on a part of its Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway.

Landslides were reported in Mammal and Edamal areas in Vattavada near Munnar as well as in various parts of Idukki . A home in Vattavda was partially destroyed due to the landslides. The landslides and heavy rain also submerged acres of winter vegetable farms in Vattavada.

A car was trapped in a mud puddle in Panniyarkutty near Adimali due to a landslide. The passengers narrowly escaped.

A mudslide was reported near Mattuppetty road in Munnar and the traffic disrupted in the top station route.

Incidentally, the recently rebuilt Periyavara Bridge was also washed out due to heavy rain on Friday.  The bridge, which is on the Munnar-Udumalpet interstate route, connects tourists to Rajamala tourist destination and the Eravikulam National Park.

No fisherman was stranded at sea in the wake of cyclone Gaja as the fisheries ministry had taken necessary measures on a war footing to ensure the safety of fisher folks and protect their boats and equipment, Tamil Nadu minister D Jayakumar said on Friday.

According to the state power utility, about 500 km (310 miles) of power supply lines were affected. Officials said it would take at least two days to restore power supply in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam and Thiruvarur districts. 

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

Gaja is the second major storm to hit India’s east coast in recent weeks, after Cyclone “Titli” hit Odisha 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.

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As of 15:00 UTC on November 16, Gaja was located approximately 28 km (17.4 miles) SSE of Cochin and was expected to soon exit into the Arabian Sea and continue tracking westward under the high-zonal subtropical ridge to the north across the Arabian Sea.

The system will gradually weaken, mostly due to the combination of diminishing upper level outflow and the influx of cold dry air from the North offsetting the low vertical wind shear and warm along-track sea surface temperatures.

Dissipation is expected over the next 72 hours.

Featured image credit @ModifiedTamilan

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