Cyclone Gaja kills 33 in India's Tamil Nadu state

Storm caused widespread destruction after making landfall on Friday

A fallen pole and a damaged motorbike are seen in a road after cyclone Gaja hit Velankanni, in Nagapattinam district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India, November 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The death toll from a cyclone that battered India's eastern coast has reached 33, a disaster official said on Sunday as authorities assessed the damage caused by the powerful storm.

Cyclone Gaja was accompanied by winds of up to 120kph, as it swept into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast on Friday.

Strong winds brought down thousands of trees  and destroyed homes, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee to shelters.

"So far 20 men, 11 women, and two children have died due to the cyclone," said an official with the state disaster management authority.

"As of now 177,500 people are housed in over 351 camps. Thousands of trees have been uprooted and livestock has also been badly affected," the official said.

The head of the state government, Edappadi Palaniswami, said most deaths were caused by flooding, collapsing houses  and electrocution. He has announced compensation of $14,000 (Dh51,400) each to the families of victims.

Hundreds of emergency workers have been  used to restore roads and power cables, and a navy helicopter and two ships have joined the relief efforts.

India's weather department said the cyclonic depression moved westward into neighbouring Kerala state on Saturday before continuing into the Arabian Sea.

Gaja is the second major storm to hit India's east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Odisha state in October, killing at least two people.

Storms regularly hit southern India between April and December. Last year, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

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