‘Gaja’ Intensifies Into Severe Storm, Landfall In Tamil Nadu Tonight 

Cyclone Gaja intensified into a severe cyclonic storm on Thursday and is expected to cross the south Tamil Nadu coast by late this evening or night. The government machinery put on high alert the vulnerable districts.

The storm, which lay over the Southwest Bay about 285 km from Chennai and 225 km east of Karaikal in neighbouring Puducherry, was very likely to cross the coast between Cuddalore and Pamban around Nagapattinam by evening or Thursday night after weakening into a cyclone, the Meteorological Department office said.

At the time of landfall, wind speed of 80-90 kmph gusting up to 100 kmph and heavy rains were likely along the region, it said. The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority, in a tweet, said as per the latest updates #GajaCyclone is likely to have landfall between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. tonight in all probability in Nagapattinam district, about 300 km from Chennai.

There was no significant rainfall so far on Thursday in most of the districts expected to be affected by the cyclone. Chennai witnessed sporadic spells of rain.

So far, 1,313 people have already been shifted to relief centre in Nagapattinam district and efforts are on to evacuate all those living in low lying areas to relief centres in the vulnerable districts, the government said.

A holiday has been declared for educational institutions in seven districts, including Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore and Ramanathapuram, and the government has advised private firms, and establishments to send back their employees early so that they could reach their homes before 4 p.m.

As the sea was rough, police have been advised to intensify efforts to bar people from going near beaches to witness the cyclone or click selfies. Four teams each of National Disaster Response Force personnel have been deployed in Nagapattinam district while two teams of the state disaster response force in Cuddalore district, officials said.

The state disaster management authority has released an animated video aimed at creating awareness on the do's and don'ts during cyclone. The government has announced helpline numbers 1070 (state-level) and 1077 (districts) for those who may need assistance.

In view of the cyclone, the Southern Railway announced cancellation of four trains, including three from here to destinations in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts, scheduled for departure Thursday.