The people of the coastal town of Vedaranyam were left overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the cyclone, which threw normal life out of gear.
On Thursday evening, there was hardly any inkling that the approaching cyclone would unleash destruction of such magnitude in the town.
For the residents, who had not bothered too much about the numerous warnings issued by the district administration, it was business as usual in the morning since the sun was shining bright. There was deep scepticism among many about whether the Meteorological Department’s forecast was indeed true. Things were no different at Arcottuthurai, a fishing hamlet.
Plunged into darkness
As darkness fell, the sea that looked tranquil from the village for much of the evening suddenly started roaring. And then, everything changed. With the wind howling, rain started battering down. Traders responded by downing their shutters hurriedly and heading back to their homes.
Within minutes, the streets wore a deserted look. The town plunged into darkness due to power disruption, triggering panic.
By 11 p.m., the rain became heavy and was accompanied by thunder and lightning. The residents were kept awake by the sound of the wind that blew at a force in excess of 100 km per hour. By then, there was no doubt whatsoever about the weather warnings, or the fact that the town was at the most vulnerable point of landfall.
On Friday morning, there were uprooted trees and electric poles and cries of anguish everywhere. Elders in the village observed that Gaja had been the most furious and devastating cyclone they’d ever seen in several decades, next only to the cyclone witnessed in the early 1950s.