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 GAJA: LOCALS CUT OFF ACCESS FOR AID

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Tiruvarur: Frustration and agony among local people hit by cyclone Gaja has resulted in people resorting to road blockades thus isolating several cyclone-hit areas from district headquarters. Authorities said that irate villagers blocking the roads are not permitting official vehicles to supply even the essential commodities for the most-hit localities including Kodiyakkarai near Vedaranyam and Muthupettai near Thiruthuraipoondi. With the power supply and mobile network service yet to return to the localities as on Sunday, the extent of damage, particularly the property loss caused by the cyclone, remains unknown.

According to Mohammed Yakoob, a native of Muthupettai in Tiruvarur district, people of the town did not anticipate such devastation from Gaja. “Even during the 2004 tsunami, mangroves guarded our town and the damages were less. But the devastation caused by Gaja is unprecedented. At least authorities should have anticipated this and taken better precautionary measures such as stocking water and food,” Yakoob said.

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Close to 30,000 houses in the vicinity of Muthupettai and nearby Jambavanodai, Nachikulam, Alangadu, and Thambikottai in Tiruvarur district were damaged as every household had at least one coconut tree in the backyard. The centuries-old Jambavanodai dargah near Muthupettai was damaged when shelters collapsed over the minarets.

The situation in Vedaranyam, situated 42 km away from Muthupettai, of Nagapattinam district is no different. Officials said that they were unable to reach Kodiyakkarai as villagers have been blocking the roads for the past two days since cyclone made its landfall. “Villagers are not even permitting medicine, electricity poles, and food supplies to reach Vedaranyam. They have formed a self-imposed  isolation which is challenging our rescue and relief works,” a senior official in relief operation said.

Local people of hamlets nearby Muthupettai, Thiruthuraipoondi, and Vedaranyam relying on handpumps supplying potable water are cooking food in bulk on their own. Public transportation is completely affected as TNSTC officials still groping in dark to resume rural bus services in Vedaranyam and Thiruthuraipoondi towns. “It took 4 hours for a bus from Tiruvarur to reach Thiruthuraipoondi which is only 30 km. Bus services to Vedaranyam were completely stopped as villagers stage road blockades at multiple spots,” an official with TNSTC said. Several natives of Vedaranyam and Thiruthuraipoondi hamlets who reside in the Gulf and south-east Asian countries are in distress as they are unable to locate their kith and kin in the cyclone-hit areas.

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