TNM spoke to a few electricity board officials on site who were fixing the fallen poles along the Vizhunthamavadi stretch in Nagapattinam district, to know the kind of struggles they have been facing.

A daunting task These 300 officials are fixing electricity in Nagapattinam post Gaja
news Cyclone Gaja Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 10:05

It had been raining intermittently through Tuesday in Nagapattinam district and foreman Tamilselvan’s team from Tirunelveli has been heaving heavy concrete poles into paddy fields through the rains. These fields had gotten submerged and the delicate greens from the paddy are just beginning to peek above the waters.

While natural calamities like the recent cyclone Gaja occur for a short period of time, the mark they leave behind lasts for weeks, crippling normal lives for months to come. TNM spoke to a few electricity board officials on site who were fixing the fallen poles along the Vizhunthamavadi stretch in Nagapattinam district, to know the kind of struggles they have been facing.

The men heave heavy concrete poles through these paddy fields, erecting them on the narrow walkways. “We can’t take any vehicles inside. The paddy cannot be damaged,” explains one of them.

These fields, therefore, as you can imagine, are quite marshy and so pitching the holes into the soil here for the poles has been the greatest challenge for Electricity Board workers. “The weather, too, has been non-cooperative. Usually our men do not work when it rains on normal days. Today you can see, they are determined to finish. When that light bulb glows some distance away, we breathe a sigh of relief,” says Tamilselvan.

Foreman Tamilselvan who has travelled from Tirunelveli District along with his team of 100 has been on site from 6 am on Tuesday. This team has been boarded at a college in Nagapattinam and will work day and night, if needed, to fix the electric lines in Vizhunthamavadi. 

“After being shuffled between villages, we were finally told our place of work on Monday evening. Different teams work in different areas. We've been deputed to Vizhunthamavadi. The college we’re staying at had glass shards all over the floor, from the cyclone impact. We didn’t have broomsticks to sweep it away but just had to make do with what we found. This is part of what we do, we don’t complain,” he chuckles.

This team of 300, including 100 from Tirunelveli, 50 from Tirutani and Kancheepuram and 150 from Andhra Pradesh, had its first meal of the day at 2.30 in the afternoon. Working many hours, in the rain, without any food is a work hazard for those at the Electricity Board. 

“We usually get deputed to all these flood-ravaged, cyclone-affected areas. I’ve been a part of post-Varadha, post-Ockhi, post-Thane relief work. We leave behind our families and have to travel hundreds of kilometres. We never know when we might go back home. Work happens until it happens,” says Padmanabhan, an Assistant Engineer from Cuddalore. 

For Assistant Engineer Ravikumar from Andhra Pradesh, the damage left behind by Gaja is something they did not anticipate. “We had just finished working for Titli in Andhra and ten days later we got deputed here. This scenario is a total washout. You can see, not a single pole is standing. This requires a lot of work,” he adds. 

What was the absolute worst site he has worked in? “I think it has to be Gaja,” he says, before quickly adding, “Hudhud too was an absolute nightmare!”

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