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Updates of cyclone in Tamil Nadu: Deaths rose to 10, over 16,000 evacuated electricity is cut in Chennai



It is unfortunate that even while people of Tamil Nadu have not overcome the grief they suffer from the sudden demise of their beloved leader Amma, the high speed cyclone attacked them, making their life just unbearably miserable. Experts say Tamil Nadu this year had the worst ever wild wind this time and devastation is deadly, schools and colleges closed; over 16,000 evacuated.

The death toll due to cyclone Vardah rose to ten in Tamil Nadu on December 13. Four persons have died in Chennai alone, two in Kancheepuram, two in Tiruvallur, one in Villupuram and one in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

Chennaities woke up to uprooted trees, big broken branches blocking the roads, fallen name boards, hoardings, damaged compound walls and vehicles under fallen trees, power cut and lack of milk supplies on Tuesday, a day after severe cyclone Vardah ripped through the city. People in the residential localities after being awed by the damage caused by the cyclone started cleaning their compound of fallen trees, leaves and other muck that was blown by the cyclonic winds.

As the cyclone struck land, so strong were the winds that glass panels blew off the facade of a five-star hotel in Chennai, while in Andhra Pradesh, an oil tanker tipped over on a highway. The state government has asked people to stay home at least till midnight. All schools and colleges were closed today in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur and private offices were asked to allow staff to take a day off or work from home. The TN administration began clearing roads the moment the rain stopped this evening, with residents pitching in at many places, but it will be a long haul, with many arterial roads still flooded with ankle-high water.

In Chennai, powerful gusts of wind uprooted more than 200 trees and 50 electricity poles, blocking off many localities for several hours as corporation staff and policemen struggled to clear the roads. The electricity board cut power supply in most parts of Chennai for up to eight hours as a precaution.

Much of TN capital Chennai is in dark as electricity is cut. Traffic is dislocated for hours.

It has not rained in Chennai since about 4 pm, a little after Cyclone Vardah hit the Tamil Nadu coast on Monday afternoon making landfall about 15 km away from the capital. But after a one-hour lull, strong winds have started to blow again. The cyclone struck land with a wind speed of 120 and 130 kmph, bringing with it heavy rain that lashed the coast in Tamil Nadu and neighbour Andhra Pradesh all through Monday morning. More than 16,000 people have been evacuated from low areas and four people have died. Schools and colleges in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur will be closed tomorrow.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the low-lying areas, as the cyclone made a landfall near Chennai. Chennai airport services suspended at least till 9 pm; 4 killed in Tamil Nadu, over 8000 evacuated.

Many roads in Chennai are water logged traffic collapse. Electricity polls are broken as trees fell on them. At least four persons were killed so far as heavy rains accompanied by high velocity winds pounded the city and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu on December 12 Monday due to severe cyclonic storm called “Vardah” which began making landfall near Chennai, disrupting land and air transport and throwing normal life out of gear. “The landfall process of cyclone Vardah has begun,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. According to M Mohapatra, Additional Director General (Services) of IMD, the “eye” of the Cyclone is 20 kms off Chennai.

In the wake of the cyclone, the government and private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur will remain closed today. Chennai Airport has now become operational after the services were temporarily suspended yesterday in view of the cyclone.

Thousands of people were evacuated as Vardah pounded Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts with heavy rain and squall. More than ten thousand people were rescued by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Director General of (NDRF) R.K. Pachnanda told ANI that the situation is being monitored closely by concerned authorities and they are working to restore normalcy as fast as they can.”It is as if we are in the midst of a forest,” quipped a businessman surveying the fallen trees in his locality.

The government declared Tuesday as holiday for all educational institutions in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts. Meanwhile shops and hotels opened their shutters in the morning as usual. Some hotels refused to accept debit/credit cards for payment saying the point-of-sale terminals were not working.

In a statement issued on Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said over 4,000 trees fell. According to citizens the number could be much more if one takes into account the trees inside the residential compounds. While the authorities have cleared the main roads of fallen trees for traffic, it would take a couple of days for them to clear the trees in the residential areas. While bus services were resumed, it would take some more time for the services to become normal as the routes have to be cleared of trees.

At the spot where former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was buried at the Marina beach, the canopy remained intact despite the cyclonic winds. Several sand bags were lined up surrounding the burial spot to prevent flooding. The burial place continued to get stream of visitors from early morning.

Over 7,000 people have been evacuated from near the sea in Tamil Nadu and more than 9,400 in Andhra Pradesh and moved to relief camps. Over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal coast in SPS Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rains due to the influence of severe cyclonic storm Vardah.

Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which are on high alert due to the approaching cyclonic storm. Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons feared trapped at sea.

The armed forces have been asked to be on standby with the army, navy and air force prepared to be deployed anytime as and when required.

The Navy, Army and Air Force have been on the ready to assist with evacuation and rescue. The Navy has had two ships ready with doctors, food and water for 5,000 people. The National Disaster Relief Force or NDRF has deployed 16 teams.

The coastal zones are under panic and TN government and CM Paneerselvam, Radio and TV channels alert the people about the latest position and possible future effects and warn them not to go the beach..

However, the human deaths and other casualties are less than that happened last year thanks to preparedness of Tamil Nadu government to face such natural calamities. Last year’s tragedy in Chennai taught lessons to Tamil Nadu to be very cautious and this time the government was quick to react and take appropriate measures to bring the impact lesser felt and under control

Last year about this time giant floods ransacked the Chennai city and many other coastal towns .that had resulted in destructions, evacuations, dislocations, and deaths. It took months for Chennai to return to normalcy as many houses were in flood water.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has phoned the chief ministers of both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to assure them of the centre’s help if needed and to make an assessment of damage.

Cyclone Vardah will reach Karnataka tomorrow and pass over south Goa on Wednesday, December 14.

As it stands now the speed of cyclone has come down considerably but local rails in Chennai city have not yet begin operation. Some important trains going to other cities have also been stopped temporarily.

Rescue operations continue while rehabilitation works have begun slowly.

Since roads are filled with fallen tress transportation is facing difficulties, the government sections are taking care to remove the logs from the roads so that transport could begin normally.

The normal life is yet to return to Chennai.

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Partnerships key to promoting economic empowerment for rural women in the MENA region




The economic empowerment of rural women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was the topic of a side-event organized by the governments of Italy and Tunisia, in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UN Women and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The event featured a range of high-level speakers from Italy, the MENA region, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and was moderated by Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations in New York. “Women face several barriers to their equal participation in the social, economic and political spheres, and these constraints are felt even more harshly by rural women,” he stated in his opening remarks.

Fatou Haidara, Managing Director of Corporate Management and Operations at UNIDO, highlighted the significance of industrialization in reducing poverty and increasing employment, and the positive benefits of this for women. She referred to the holistic approach adopted by UNIDO in its work in promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the MENA region, stating that both policy and capacity-building dimensions are crucial.

“We have facilitated an ecosystem of knowledge and support, successfully partnering with governments and the private sector to create the foundation for structural change that has mobilized women’s entrepreneurship throughout the region,” she said. “For UNIDO, this project is one step forward in our long-term strategy for enabling women’s economic independence, because the resulting benefits will go beyond women and girls to put us all on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda.”

The importance of integrating women into the political system was stressed by Neziha Laabidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood of the Government of Tunisia, who also highlighted the inclusion of women in Tunisia’s national, multi-sectoral strategy.

Teresa Bellanova, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Italy drew attention to Italy’s commitment to promoting women’s rights and gender equality and to supporting women entrepreneurs and capacity-building at the local level in light of the radical, recent economic and geographical changes shaping the MENA region’s reality.

The discussion also touched upon issues faced by women in the region, such as access to land rights and discriminatory socio-cultural norms. The need for partnerships to come up with integrated solutions to such issues was addressed by Mohammed Naciri, Regional Director for Arab States, UN Women.

Engagement with the financial sector, including making capital more easily accessible to rural women, was underlined as a key factor in empowering rural women by Emanuele Santi, founder and president of Afrilanthropy, which connects social start-ups in Africa to impact investors. Santi added that creating incentives – for example by giving bonuses to companies that invest in companies led by women and rural women in particular – was another key to success. Finally, he stated that the development community had to “work as an ecosystem” and blend financial support with non-financial support.

The event was held on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an annual two-week session at the United Nations in New York. The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Speaking at the opening of the CSW, UN Secretary- General, António Guterres, stated that the Commission was “leading the way” when it comes to empowering women. “When women are already taking action, we need to listen to them and to support them,” he said. “By building equality, we give women a chance to fulfil their potential. And we also build more stable societies.”

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Four countries on track to graduate from UN list of least developed countries




Four countries could soon “graduate” from the ranks of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations, a United Nations expert committee announced on Thursday

Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands have increased national earning power and improved access to health care and education, making them eligible to exit the group of least developed countries (LDCs).

“This is an historic occasion,” said Jose Antonio Ocampo, chair of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), noting that only five countries have graduated since the UN established the LDC category in 1971.

LDCs are assessed using three criteria: health and education targets; economic vulnerability and gross national income per capita.

Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews of the CDP to be considered for graduation.

The Committee will send its recommendations to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for endorsement, which will then refer its decision to the UN General Assembly.

For CDP member Diane Elson, a professor at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, Thursday’s announcement was good news for millions of women in rural areas.

She pointed out that the latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), currently under way in New York, is discussing the challenges facing this population.

“The success of the countries that are graduating reflects things like the improvement of the health and the education of the population, which extends to rural women, and the increase in incomes in the country, which extends to rural women,” she said.

However, Ms. Elson stressed that the countries will need continued international support because they remain vulnerable to external shocks, including the impact of climate change.

Mr. Ocampo said this vulnerability is particularly evident in Pacific Island states such as Kiribati.

Globally, there are 47 LDCs, according to the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The majority, 33, are in Africa, while 13 can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in Latin America.

In the 47 years of the LDC category’s existence, only five countries have graduated (Botswana, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives and Samoa)

The CDP said two more countries, Vanuatu and Angola, are scheduled for graduation over the next three years.

Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria but were not recommended for graduation at this time, due to economic and political challenges.

That decision will be deferred to the next CDP triennial review in 2021, according to Mr. Ocampo.

Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar met the graduation criteria for the first time but would need to do so for a second time to be eligible for consideration.

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ADB, India Sign $120 Million Loan to Improve Rail Infrastructure




The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India today signed a $120 million loan agreement to complete double-tracking and electrification of railway tracks along high-density corridors in India and improve operational efficiency of the country’s railway networks.

The $120 million financing is the third tranche of a $500 million financing facility for the Railway Sector Investment Program approved by ADB’s Board in 2011. The loan amount will be used to complete the ongoing works started in the project’s first two tranches.

The agreement was signed by Kenichi Yokoyama, ADB Country Director for India, and Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions) of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, at a ceremony in New Delhi.

“The program will help develop energy efficient, safe, and reliable railway systems that will result in reduced travel time along project rail routes and also reduce annual accident rate,” said Mr. Khare.

“Funding for the project’s third tranche will contribute toward achieving the overall program outputs of double-tracking about 840 kilometers (km) of rail routes and electrification of 640 km of tracks along high density corridors,” said Mr. Yokoyama. “The program is also helping implement new accounting systems and provide additional safety measures including collision avoidance equipment.”

The investment program is targeting busy freight and passenger routes in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Odisha, including the “Golden Quadrilateral” corridor that connects Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi. The doubling of rail sections is being implemented along Daund-Titlagarh section, Sambalpur-Titlagarh section, Raipur-Titlagarh Section, and Hospet-Tinaighat section, while electrification is being undertaken along the 641-km Pune-Wadi Guntakal section.

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