THE ‘GAJA’ CYCLONE
16November 2018 was a sudden and unexpected shock for the people of Tamilnadu, especially people who live in the delta region of Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Vedaranyam. Cyclone ‘Gaja’ as it has been officially named, crossed Tamil Nadu coast between Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam on November 16, claiming 63 lives and leaving behind a trail of destruction, severely affecting the power sectors, communication lines, uprooting thousands of trees, affecting the farms and the cattle folk.Four districts of Tamilnaduwere severely struck and two districts were partially affected by this cyclone. This severe cyclonic storm indeedhad made a great devastation.
ACTUAL DAMAGES CAUSED
This severe Cyclone that lasted almost four to five hours made people terrified. The actual condition of the people, at the time of the cyclone, was not known as all the communication signal towers have been heavily damaged. Confreres from two Salesian institutions, Don Bosco Youth Village at Keeranur and Don BoscoAlaihal media team, rushed to the nearby villages as they were close to these cyclone-affected districts. The Don BoscoAlaihal media team, took the risk of rushing to the interior spots and covered the actual situation of the people. Gaja had upturned many villages and created a worst picture. They reported the severity of the cyclone and they made known the pathetic condition of the people especially the poor.
People were under a great shock and were helpless of not knowing what to do and not able to bear up the loss caused by this cyclone.Sheeted and thatched-Roof houses have been damaged, thousands of coconut trees were uprooted, damaged-roads blocked the normal transportation, electric posts and signal-towers have been heavily damaged that resulted absolutely no electricity and communication.
347 electricity transformers have been destroyed and 3,559 kms of electricity transmission wires have been snapped in the cyclone, thereby cutting the power supply in the affected areas. Several goats, poultry have also died due to the cyclone. 1,27,000+ trees have been uprooted.Livelihood of the common people, including farmers and fishermen has been severely hit. Around 800 cattle died, 1.17 lakh houses were damaged and 88,102 hectare of agricultural land were affected.
DAMAGES AT THE SRI-LANKAN REFUGEE CAMPS
The house of Sri Lankan refugees in three camps were badly affected by the fall of trees. Houses were heavily damaged and a few have lost the entire house due to this natural disaster.
|Camp||Fully Destroyed houses||Partially destroyed||Total|
|Lena Vilakku (Thekkattur)||14||40||54|
SALESIAN INSTITUTIONS THAT WERE AFFECTED
A few of our Salesian institutions were also badly affected. In the district of Pudukottai, Don Bosco Youth resource centreKeeranur and in the district of Thanjavur, Don BoscoAspirantate were affected. In the district of Pudukottai institutions belonging to Salesian Family, Auxilium Arts and Science College at Regunathapuram and SMA skill training centre at Keeranur were also badly affected by this storm.
IMMEDIATE RELIEF WORKS
As the news had spread and having been aware of the heavy damage caused by this cyclone, many of our institutions volunteered with the young people to visit the spots and to help the people in whatever ways possible.
- The prenovices from Don BoscoDindigul and the Aspirants from Don BoscoThanjavur, came in big groups to remove the trees, to clear the roads and to ensure a clean surrounding.
- Students from AMSAM and Don BoscoJawharpuram technical institutions reached out to the interior villages to cut the trees and to pile up the fallen electric-posts.
- Plumbers and Electricians from our institutions reached out to the spots with their tools to cut trees and to repair the water pipe lines.
- Don Bosco institutions, with the help of the young people, provided biscuits, safe drinking water, candles, matches, mosquito coils and medicines.
PROVIDING BASIC AMENITIES FOR THE PEOPLE THROUGH BOSCONET – DELHI
BOSCONET – Delhi came forward immediately, in a big way, to render their helps and support to the victims. With their great help, Tiruchy province was able to reach out to many and provide materials to the affected people in a big way. Their immediate thoughtfulness to reach out to the victims, made a great impact in their lives and turned out to be a great consolation. People felt they are cared, supported and loved.
Through the financial support of BOSCONET, the province was able to reach out to thousands of people and offer them the basic needs.
- 1028 Solar lights were provided
- 400 bags of rice (5 kg each) were provided
- 400 families were given groceryitems (Oil, dhal, sugar etc), supporting the family for 15 days
- 400 Bed-sheets were provided
- 300 mosquito nets were provided (in the Sri Lankan refugee camps)
- 6000 ltrs of water each provided for 10 villages
- 125 tarpaulin sheets were provided
10 villages were directly covered and materials were provided.
200 differently-abled victims were identified from 25 villages around Keernaur, and were supported.
Apart from these helps, Meals, Food packets, Milk, medicines, tarpaulin-sheets etc, were provided for the people. Medical support were also provided for those who were sick and down with infections.
SUPPORT FROM DON BOSCO INSTITUTIONS IN TIRUCHY PROVINCE
In this pressing hard times, the entire Tiruchy Provincewas with the victims, trying to reach out to them with the maximum help. Many of our Salesian institutions have readily, immediately and spontaneously come forward to extend their support in the relief works as well to offer to the victims material helps. DB Dindigul together with the Prenovices, DB Thanjavur together with the Aspirants, The Retreat Yercaud community with the youth, ASMAM Community together with the ITI Students, DB Jawaharpuram community together with the ITI Students, Madurai LS Parish community, Keeranur community and youth, Varadarajanpet community with the DB Past Pupils, Madhakottaiparish community, KeelaEral community with the youth, Savariarpalayam community with the youth, DB Vellakinar community, DBAI Coimbatore, DBAI Salem, DB Kazhiappanallur, DB Lalgudi, DB Namakkal and Jananam Department. A few more communities are still trying their possible ways to reach out to these victims.
Sacred heart college Tirupattur (INM Province) and National Don Bosco Past Pupil unit extended their monetary help and support.
HELPS FROM OTHER INSTITUTIONS THROUGH DON BOSCO TIRUCHY
As many came to know the hard situation of the cyclone affected people, they tried their level best to reach out to these people extending voluntary services and providing the basic needs of the people. Many institutions who wanted to do charitable works and extend their solidarity toward these people, identified our Don Bosco institution and extended their support. As our institution reached out to the interior villages and addressed the immediate needs of the poor and deserving people, these NGOs trusted us, had confidence in our institution and sent all their materials to the institutions to be distributed to the affected people.
Rotary Clubs of Pudukottai and Nagercoil, IVDP (Integrated village development project) of Mr. Kuzhandai Francis, JRS (Jesuit refugee services), Pudukottai Multipurpose Social Service Society, Annai Theresa Disabled Rehabilitation institute and few other institutions have rendered their helps and supports.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
People are still under this great shock. In the past weeks and even now, they experience dark-nights without electricity. A few interior villages will have no electricity for another month. Loss of electricity has led people experience harder times that resulted loss of their basic fundamental needs. People who lost their coconut trees, cattles and farms are dejected and lost their livelihood. People who lost their entire houses have taken shelter at the common public places and are helpless.
LET US MAKE THEM SMILE AGAIN
Cyclone Gaja, effected extensive damages in these coastal districts and Cauvery delta districts. This was a heavy blow on the people especially the poor farmers. The immediate helps made the victims experience solidarity love and care. They were consoled with our helps and accompaniments. At the same time people are confused and at a loss with the thought of how to rebuild their houses, repair the damages, cultivate the farms and bring back the cattles. They have lost all their livelihood. What they brought with hard work and heavy toil have been swept in a few hours. For years they were with the tilling of the ground and sweats on their brows, they grew the trees and now the trees are buried and laid to rest. The cattles were part of their family and they are no more. It is a heavy pain. People feel that their livelihood is also buried with this cyclone. There is a need for them rise up to the situation and start rebuilding their lives again. These victims are to be supported, guided and greatly accompanied. Their children have to be guided and counseled. We must stand with them to bring them back to normality and to once again see smiles on their faces, especially in the young.