Cyclone Gaja leaves at least 45 dead in southern India

Picking up the pieces.
Picking up the pieces.
Image: Shabbir Ahmed via Reuters
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Cyclone Gaja has left a trail of destruction in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry, claiming the lives of at least 45 people.

Around 250,000 people have been evacuated in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, where wind speeds reached 120kmph when the storm made landfall on Nov. 16. Last week, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued a red warning, the highest category, for the eastern coastal states, telling locals to watch out for heavy rains and strong winds. Fishermen were also asked not to go out to sea.

Now, local governments are scrambling to provide relief following extensive damage to houses, infrastructure, and crops. Here’s how the southern states have fared so far:

Tamil Nadu

The state government has estimated that the cyclone uprooted over 170,000 trees and damaged about 117,000 houses. Farmers have seen acres of their coconut farms and banana plantations ruined, according to the The News Minute. The impact of the cyclone also damaged electricity transformers and power lines, cutting off electricity in several districts. In a number of affected areas, including the Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, and Nagapattinam districts, schools remain closed today (Nov. 19).


Huts collapsed in the district of Karaikal in Puducherry following the impact of Cylone Gaja, which chief minister V Narayanasamy said had affected fishermen the most, destroying around 150 of their vessels. Strong winds and heavy rains also uprooted trees and damaged electricity lines and transformers, leaving some coastal hamlets without power.

The winds reportedly dragged a dredger anchored in the port for 60km. It eventually ran aground, but the three crew members on board at the time managed to survive. The carcasses of several animals from the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in nearby Tamil Nadu were also found washed up on the coast of Karaikal on Nov. 17.


Just a few months after severe flooding brought life in the southern-most state to a standstill, several districts in Kerala faced heavy rains and landslides once again. Parts of the Idukki district, including the popular tourist destination Munnar, were flooded and witnessed damage to bridges and crops. In the Alappuzha district, 160 houses were destroyed, school buildings damaged, and electricity disrupted in the wake of the storm.