Cyclone Gaja is expected to hit the coast of Tamil Nadu on November 15 and weather experts have predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in several coastal areas from the night of November 14 night which will be accompanied with strong winds blowing at a speed of 80-100 kmph speed.
The latest update issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that the cyclone will cross the coast on November 15 between Cuddalore and Pamban in Ramanathapuram district and that there will be extensive rainfall in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Karaikal, Cuddalore and Villupuram districts.
As an exercise to ascertain the level of preparedness by coastal districts, TNM spoke to the administrative officials in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Villupuram and Ramanathapuram districts. Here is what they had to say.
According to the latest update from IMD, Cyclone Gaja is expected to hit the coast between Cuddalore and Pamban (Ramanathapuram). Although Cuddalore has previously tackled the floods in 2015 and Cyclone Thane in 2011, the authorities are gearing up to tackle any situation on the ground.
Cuddalore district collector V Anbuselvan told TNM that headed by the deputy collector, 19 teams have been formed with revenue officers, TWAD board officers and TANGEDCO officers, to monitor the situation.
“3,124 first responders have been identified across the district and trained on the basic procedure to follow in case of disaster. We have 42 permanent shelters which can house 25,000 people and there are 191 temporary shelters in the district to house more people if need be. We also have 28 boats and 66 swimmers ready to be deployed for rescue operations after the cyclone makes landfall,” he said.
First responders are members of the general public who are identified and trained to respond to a disaster. They will be trained in basic first-aid and rescue operations and also will be the point of contact between the district officials and the people.
He also added that 240 earthmovers, 150 generator-sets, 202 power saws, 464 torch lights and 91,000 sandbags are ready with the district administration for use during the disaster.
“In addition to the above, we also have 39 teams to rescue animals in distress and put them in any of the 43 animal shelters across the district. We have 178 first responders for animal rescue in the district,” he added.
Cuddalore SP P Saravanan told TNM that the police department has already trained around 80 personnel in disaster management and are ready to be deployed on the ground. “We have identified and trained 80 persons from our Armed Reserve force and they are ready to be deputed as SDRF personnel during the cyclone,” he said.
The collector also added that all the hospitals – government and private – have been instructed to work round-the-clock and to stock up essential medicines and diesel for gen-sets.
Emergency number: 1077
As the cyclone nears the coast, though Nagapattinam is not expected to face the brunt of the cyclone, authorities have kept safety measures in place.
Nagapattinam collector S Suresh Kumar told TNM, “We have in place 22 multipurpose evacuation centres which function as shelters at the time of evacuation. These are built as multipurpose structures. They can be used as schools or community halls during normal times and can be converted to evacuation centres, as they are equipped with generators, kitchens and toilets etc, to cater to people during the crisis. Apart from this, 212 shelters including schools and marriage halls have been identified to shift victims after evacuation. Tools for smooth execution of evacuation such as electric saws, to cut fallen trees and sandbags which will help prevent flooding or damage by water, have been kept ready.”
Adding that the district is in possession of 47 electric saws and 1,20,000 sandbags, the collector said that the sandbags will be used in low lying areas of the district when they flood.
“We also have a 24-hour emergency toll-free number for calls which will be manned round-the-clock. Victims just have to dial 1077 to receive help,” he added.
Emergency number: 1077
Though Villupuram is not located on the Coromandel coast, its proximity to Cuddalore has district officials stepping up disaster preparedness.
Speaking to TNM, Disaster Management Tahsildar Balasubramanyam said that 15 first responders have been identified from vulnerable villages in the district and have been given training on what to do during times of disasters.
“Five women and 10 men have been designated as the first responders during the cyclone. Their primary job will be to convey the official warnings to their regions and make sure that even the last person knows about them. They have also been trained on basic rescue operations and first aid, in case of casualties,” he said. He also said that two teams of SDRF personnel fully equipped with instruments have been deputed – one each to Marakkanam and Kottakuppam – to respond to distress calls.
“We have also arranged 12 multipurpose shelters with all basic amenities – 9 in various places in Marakkanam and 3 in Vaanoor – to evacuate people whose houses get affected by the cyclone,” he added.
Emergency contact numbers are 1077 and 04146-223265. Two teams have been deployed to man the phones round the clock during the cyclone.
As far as Ramanathapuram is concerned, the IMD has predicted that the cyclone will cross the coast at any point between Cuddalore and Pamban, which lies in Ramanathapuram district.
Speaking to TNM about the measures taken by Ramanathapuram district administration, Collector Veera Raghava Rao said, “We have formed 15 inter-departmental teams with officers from various departments to act during the crisis period. Each of these teams will have 10 people and consist of 227 members. Additionally, we also have separate committees to oversee water management, shelter and early warnings ahead of the cyclone.”
Adding that the district has 23 multipurpose evacuation shelters and 125 other shelters including schools and marriage halls, he said, “Around 70 State Disaster Rescue Force trained police personnel, 45 Red Cross volunteers and 60 disaster response guards have been readied. We have identified 1,520 mechanised boats, 3,500 registered country boats and 1,500 unregistered country boats. They have all been alerted and regularly updated. We are monitoring them continuously and nobody has been allowed to go out fishing.”
“We have 5,500 first responders and 2,000 women volunteers whom we will alert to help with the rescue and evacuation. With regards to animals, we have 21 snake catchers ready and 132 cattle responders who will help evacuate cattle in distress,” he added.
He also stated that the district emergency operation centre has over 1,000 staff members working 24 hours.
Emergency numbers: 1077, 04567-230651