Cyclone hits Andhra coast, three killed

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Visakhapatnam: Cyclonic storm Hudhud hit the Andhra coast Sunday, triggering heavy rains and strong gales, which wrecked havoc in the coastal region killing three people.

The heavy downpour accompanied by powerful winds with speeds reaching up to 185 kmph uprooted trees, felled electricity and communication towers and caused widespread destruction to crops.

The districts of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam are without electricity since Saturday night. Mobile telephones were not working in the region as communication network collapsed.

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With trees and poles falling on highways, the vehicular traffic came to a complete halt while railways cancelled all services in the region.

The “very severe cyclonic storm” in the Bay of Bengal started crossing the coast around noon at Pudimadaka, about 50 km from this port city.

However, the intensity of the gales and rains continued till evening in Visakhapatnam city.

People were confined to their homes through the day as strong gales felled scores of trees, power and communication towers and hoardings. Many cars parked on roads were damaged.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said in Hyderabad that the eye of the storm crossed the coast but it may take three to four hours for the entire system to cross. He appealed to people to remain indoors till evening.

With the authorities losing contact with the radar tracking the cyclone, they were finding it difficult to provide information about the impact and wind speed.

Naidu quoted the navy as putting the gale speed at 185 kmph.

“We don’t have a mechanism to assess the damages as the communication network has collapsed,” said Naidu, before leaving for coastal Andhra by road.

The cyclone disrupted the functioning of the Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre here. The centre lost contact with the radar tracking the cyclone.

The officials were relying on the navy radar for information.

Naidu said the communication system had collapsed in the region and urged BSNL, Airtel, Idea and other telecom service providers to immediately rectify the communication towers.

Officials said 320 villages in four districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari were affected.

Two people were killed in Visakhapatnam while another died in Srikakulam district. Two deaths occurred due to falling trees and one due to a wall collapse.

Naidu announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh each to the families of those killed, Rs.1 lakh for critically injured and Rs.50,000 for other injured.

While officials had earlier stated that nearly 400,000 people need to be evacuated, only 1.35 lakh have moved to 223 relief camps.

Officials said 24 teams of the National Disaster response Force (NDRF), two columns of the army, six helicopters and 56 boats were ready for rescue and relief operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Naidu over phone and assured all help to the state.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in the afternoon that the cyclone will lose half its intensity in six hours.

“The cyclone, after crossing the coast, will lose its intensity rapidly because the terrain is mountainous,” IMD director general L.S. Rathore said in New Delhi.

“Within six hours, it will lose wind speed by 50 percent and in another six hours it will lost another 50 percent speed and become a depression,” said Rathore.

Apart from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, heavy rainfall will also be experienced in Chhattisgarh, eastern Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana, the official said.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh is using latest technology tools to gather firsthand information about the destruction.

The chief minister appealed to people to upload pictures and videos of uprooted trees, breached roads, damaged crops and inundated areas.

He said the government has asked the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) to do the mapping.

“The uploaded pictures will be automatically integrated with NRSA data and this will help the government in assessing the damages and mobilising required men and material to reach to the last point,” he said here.

Naidu said this would help the government in undertaking rescue and relief operations in a perfect manner.

PIC: Online Media Sources