Tamil Nadu

Gaja rampage

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A large electric transformer teeters precariously by the side of the road, its poles and wires twisted. Rubble fills rows of damaged thatched houses, and fallen coconut trees, sometimes as far as the eye can see, lie in a heap.

Sights like these greet you in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur as these districts struggle to recover from the battering inflicted by Cyclone Gaja that tore through Tamil Nadu on November 15. Strong winds ripped through the fields and plains of this historically fertile region, once the granary of the State, tearing apart the lives of thousands of farmers and workers.

“The cyclone has set the clock back by 30 years,” says Pakkiraswamy, a farmer at Pushpavanam in Nagapattinam. “The trees that once gave me a stable income have been destroyed, and if I plant them again, it will be another 10 years before they give any yield,” he says. High-yielding mango, gooseberry, tamarind and other trees too have been uprooted. It will take years to rebuild what was once a beautiful region, with fields of paddy interlaced with flourishing orchards. Gaja accounted for nearly one crore coconut trees and affected the lives of 70,000 farmers in the region.

All along the roads of the three districts, thousands of people live in makeshift camps and shelters in schools, community halls and the few concrete houses that were able to withstand the force of the storm. Over three lakh houses were destroyed.

Text by Jayant Sriram and images by Shaju John.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2022 10:45:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/gaja-rampage/article25699449.ece