CHENNAI: The first cyclonic storm ‘Gaja’ of this monsoon season is keeping the State on tenterhooks and is likely to make landfall as a severe cyclone in the early hours on Friday.
The State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC), which is a centralised coordination centre, was buzzing with activity since Thursday morning.
The trio - Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar, Commissioner of Revenue Administration K Satyagopal and Commissioner of Disaster Management Rajendra Ratnoo - camped at the SEOC for the entire day coordinating the state-wide efforts.
Based on the periodical information received from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on the cyclone track, the authorities have alerted and moved the ground teams to attend to the situation.
There were officials from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) holding up a corner tracking the cyclone.
A Nanda Kumar of NDRF told Express that 10 teams spread across the coastal districts were supporting the state machinery and four deployed in Nagapattinam district alone.
Till Thursday evening, none of the coastal districts reported heavy rainfall. Only Chennai had received a couple of sharp spells till then. But the situation has gradually changed as the cyclone reached closer to the coast.
The Commissioner of Revenue Administration ordered an evacuation of people in low-lying areas to relief centres around 2 pm, especially in Nagapattinam where the landfall was anticipated.
The state has set up 6,812 relief centres in coastal districts, of which 121 are multi-purpose centres that can accommodate 2, 000 people each.
Satyagopal said that besides the NDRF, the Tamil Nadu Disaster Response Force, 30,500 first responders, and 8,200 trained personnel exclusively to rescue pet and livestock were stationed in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai and Ramanathapuram districts, where damages were predicted.
Also, two NGOs - Satya Sai Trust and Red Cross - were roped in. At 3 pm, an advisory was issued by Revenue Minister Udhayakumar to private institutions and offices in six coastal districts to immediately ask their employees to leave and ensure they reach home by 4 pm as a precautionary measure since during the landfall the surface winds were to clock 100 kmph.
Also, police were instructed to restrict tourists and general public from taking selfies close to the coast and entering water.
By 5 pm, 2,572 people from low-lying areas were evacuated to relief centres from three districts - Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram and Tiruvarur. Later, the evacuation was stepped up. Multiple appeals were made to people in vulnerable areas to move to relief centres.
By 7 pm, over 12,000 people were evacuated from five districts, of which about 10,000 were from Nagapattinam alone. Meanwhile, authorities have made best use of TN Smart, which is an integrated mobile application for multi-hazard potential impact assessment alert, emergency response planning and tracking.
Jyothi Ganesh, head, TN Smart, said the app was only one-month-old and close to 13,000 people are using it.
“There are lots of good features. We used it to send weather updates, list of vulnerable areas, emergency contact numbers etc to the public. An alarm system was activated whenever there is an update.”
Also, it enables people to report damages or raise complaints pertaining to electricity problems, tree fall etc. The operator handling the app will acknowledge the complaint and report it to the official concerned.
Corporation all set to tackle the impact
CHENNAI: Listing out the arrangements made as the city braces for cyclone ‘Gaja’, the Corporation said that 15 IAS officers had been deputed to oversee precautionary measures taken in all 15 zones.
In a statement here on Thursday, the civic body said the residents may contact its 24x7 control room through the numbers 044 25384510/25384520/25384530/25384540 or message 9445477205 through WhatsApp in case of water-logging or other complaints.
For its part, the Corporation has high-pressure electric motors and super suction equipment stationed at the 16 subways under its maintenance and at the six subways under the State Highways department. Further, 622 pumps have been kept ready in low-lying areas in the city.
In addition, two 60 HP pumps, five 50HP pumps and 40 25HP pumps along with 130 generators are on standby, the statement said, adding that it also had 108 motor boats and 176 relief camps ready.
“From the National Disaster Response Force, 60 personnel have been brought from Arakkonam to the Chennai Corporation,” the statement added.