At least 20 people were killed and more than 86,000 evacuated as the cyclonic storm Gaja crossed Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry coast on November 16. The storm caused extensive damages to India’s top Marian shrine, the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni.
According to the latest reports, death toll in central districts rose to 20 by noon. Ten persons died in Thanjavur district, 4 in Tiruvarur, 3 in Pudukkottai, two in Tiruchi and one in Nagapattinam. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who is in Salem, announced 1 million rupees each to the bereaved families and 100,000 to seriously injured. He said 81,948 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas and housed in 471 government relief centers. He also said state ministers are camping in various parts of the cyclone-affected areas to oversee the relief operations.
The Velankanni church is some 315 km south of Chennai, the state capital. Pictures circulated in social media platforms show the extensive damage to the church and statues.