Andhra Pradesh and Odisha today mounted massive relief efforts on a war footing to restore communication and power links and clear roads that were battered in the powerful cyclone Hudhud in which the death toll rose to 24.
The worst hit port city of Visakhapatnam, home to a major naval base, resembled a war zone as tens of thousands of people in several districts were rendered homeless and over seven lakh people including five lakh people in AP evacuated and put up in relief camps.
As authorities grappled with fixing the badly smashed infrastructure in nearly a dozen districts, including Vishakapatnam which is home to two million people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will visit Visakhapatnam tomorrow.
“A total of 15 deaths were reported from Visakhapatnam district, five in Vizianagaram and one in Srikakulam,” Special Commissioner in AP Disaster Management Authority, K Hymavathi told PTI, as authorities assessed the extent of loss to human lives. Three people had died in cyclone-related incidents in Odisha where no fresh deaths were reported.
The Centre, however, put the combined death toll at 17.
“A total of 17 people have lost their lives–14 in Andhra Pradesh and 3 in Odisha,” a Union Ministry of Home Affairs statement said in Delhi.
Advisor (Communications) to AP Government, Parakala Prabhakar said most of the deaths occurred due to falling of trees on the victims.
Authorities in AP said yesterday the storm had claimed five lives as torrential rains and gale force winds packing a speed of nearly 200 kmph pounded Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.
The cyclone had moved from coastal AP to Odisha, where it damaged about 50,000 thatched houses, power network and roads,before heading to Chhattisgarh and weakening into a “deep depression”.
Besides Visakhapatnam, the other north coastal Andhra districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari have suffered widespread damage. Odisha’s Gajapati, Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada were the worst affected out of the eight districts hit by the cyclone. The Centre was also keeping a close watch on the situation.
The Visakhapatnam airport also bore the brunt of the cyclone fury with the roof over a portion being blown away due to the gales.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who has decided to camp in Visakhapatnam to oversee the relief operations, said in Rajahmundry that the government’s priority is to restore access to affected villages, establish communication networks and take care of those provided shelter.
“There has been extensive damage to houses and electrical infrastructure due to the cyclone which passed the state late last night,” Naidu’s Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneshwar.
Restoration work is being done on a “war footing”, he added.
Naidu also undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas today.
An alert for heavy to very heavy rainfall has also been sounded in the four north coastal districts Andhra districts and in several parts of Odisha.
Gusty winds and heavy rains have ravaged the picturesque port city of Visakhapatnam, where the cyclone made landfall yesterday, with uprooted trees, knocked down cell towers, transformers, hoardings and telephone poles blocking roads. Communication systems and electricity supply have snapped in the city since Saturday night and people at many places depended on the radio to know the cyclone updates.
People in the port city, who were confined to their homes since Saturday night, ventured out today after rains stopped. “There is no power, no water or food. We are not getting petrol. We cannot move on the roads. It is difficult to survive a single day here,” said a resident.
Most of the petrol pumps were closed due to the damage caused by the cyclone and those which had opened today, saw people queueing up in large numbers. Residents complained that vegetables and other food items were in short supply and their prices have shot up.
Authorities have begun efforts to remove the debris and to restore normalcy in Visakhapatnam. As many as five lakh people are being provided shelter in relief camps, Parakala Prabhakar, Advisor (Communications)to the AP government, told reporters in Hyderabad.
The state government has appointed five teams of senior IAS officials to supervise the relief operations and to restore communication and other systems.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said a total of 2,33,271 people were evacuated to safe places and are now housed in 2,029 shelter homes.
The state has also sent 30 teams of fire service personnel to Andhra Pradesh with machinery to clear roads and for tree cutting, an official said.
“The affected people may leave for their homes once the intensity of the cyclone decreases considerably though mild rain may occur at some places,” Odisha’s special relief commissioner (SRC) P K Mohapatra said.