Two days after Cyclone Hudhud made landfall, the port city is struggling to cope with a massive shortage of essential commodities. People hit the streets on Tuesday in search of food, milk, drinking water and fuel, even as power supply is yet to be restored. Stores ran out of biscuits and other packed food items, soft drinks and drinking water bottles.
The first relief trucks carrying food, milk and water packets arrived on Tuesday morning. Fights broke out near the District Collector’s office as people from the nearby fishing villages of Kotha Jalaripeta and Relliveedi, as well as the surrounding slums, raided the trucks. In the absence of proper coordination in distributing the relief material, fights broke out between groups of people trying to grab the packets of sambar rice and vegetable biryani.
“For the last two days, people have been eating biscuits and chips. The drinking water we had stored is already over, so we cannot cook anything. There has been no power for the last three days. When these trucks arrived, anxious and angry people just raided them and took away whatever they could. Some people took away 10 packets while others got nothing,” said E Raju, a student of Kotha Jalaripeta.
ATMs also ran out of cash and people waited for hours outside fuel outlets which functioned intermittently, depending on whether they had enough diesel, limiting sale to just two litres per person.“The morning after the cyclone, the weather cleared and it was sunny. Why didn’t the government start restoration work immediately? Why are trees lying on the road since Monday morning? The NDRF and other relief teams are sitting idle outside the District Collector’s office for hours because they have no orders to go somewhere and help in restoration work,” said Dr C Ramakanth of Andhra University.At the King George Hospital, the biggest government hospital in the region, the back-up generator stopped working on Monday night due to lack of diesel. The neo-natal department was worst hit as parents were forced to take away premature babies and those needing to be kept in incubators.
“We tried to get diesel for the generators but it was not available. We had to shut down many wards and relatives of patients decided to take them away,’’ said an official. The state government is struggling to restore power supply, but it may still take another 24 hours.
“These days, almost all hospitals, business establishments, banks, ATMs and hotels have generators for back-up power… What I don’t understand is that despite the warnings of a severe cyclone, no arrangements were made to make stocks of diesel and petrol available. We stored water and diesel to last for two days, but how can we go on beyond two days,’’ said an official at the Seven Hills Hospital.
While the local MP is BJP’s K Hari Babu, the district is dominated by TDP MLAs. In fact, most of the relief trucks were sent by TDP MLAs.