Major roads cleared for traffic in cyclone-hit areas; toll 47

Relief operations shifted gears in cyclone-ravaged Cuddalore district and Puducherry on Sunday as traffic resumed on arterial roads and efforts mounted for restoring electricity and supply of essential items even as the death toll increased to 47.

Major roads which remained blocked due to uprooted trees and debris dumped by the cyclone which crossed the state coast near Cuddalore on Friday had been cleared, paving the way for resumption of supplies.

District Collector V Amudhavalli put the toll caused by the cyclone in the district at 31, including ten women and two children, with delayed reports about five more deaths coming in from remote areas.

The severe cyclonic storm had claimed 40 lives in Tamil Nadu and seven in Puducherry.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram who was slated to tour the cyclone-hit areas on Sunday cancelled his visit due to inclement weather and will now inspect the areas on Tuesday, Union Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said.

It was a dismal new year dawn for the people as more than 18,000 in Cuddalore district and scores in Puducherry continued to be sheltered in government buildings, including schools, and marriage halls where they were being provided food and other essential items.

Officials said 90 percent of affected roads in Cuddalore district had been cleared for traffic, adding 20,000 litres of petrol was expected to reach Cuddalore from Nagapattinam on Sunday.

They said supply of essential items such as milk and fuel, including kerosene, would normalised within two days while water and power would be restored within a week.

Over 100 tanker lorries from Neyveli Lignite Corporation and Nellikuppam sugar factory besides those of the civic bodies had been pressed into service to provide water.

They said Samba paddy crop on 20,000 hectares, due for harvest next week, in Chidambaram and Kattumanarkoil taluks had been submerged under water while cashew and jackfruit trees on 15,000 acres in Panruti taluk suffered damage.

A report from Puducherry said the union territory was limping back to normalcy though drinking water and power supply was not fully restored in most places and the work on removing uprooted trees was underway.

Availability of milk continued to be affected but petrol supply has become normal.

An average 60,000 food packets prepared at central kitchens was being distributed daily to the people hit by the cyclone, officials said.

Narayanasamy, also the Puducherry Lok Sabha member, and opposition Congress and AIADMK, however, accused the AINRC Government in the union territory of failing to provide timely relief to the affected people.

Rejecting the charge, Chief Minister N Rangasamy maintained that no initiatives were spared to provide succour to the people.

He said the loss caused by the cyclone was estimated at Rs 2,000 crore and a detailed report would be submitted to the Centre soon.

Educational institutions will continue to remain closed for two days from Monday as the cyclone ravaged people are accommodated in most of the school premises, sources said on Sunday.