Eeven as heavy rainfall and high speed winds battered the east coast with the severe cyclonic storm Phailin just a few hours away,officials had a difficult time convincing people in a few villages of Kalingapatnam and Santhabomalli in Srikakulam district to move to cyclone shelters. Villagers,observing traditional pujas for Dussehra,refused to board vehicles brought by the district authorities,as mandal revenue officers,police personnel and relief and rescue workers raced against time to move them to safer areas.
In Bawanapadu village of Santhabommbali mandal,where heavy rainfall threatened to cut off escape routes,at least a hundred villagers were yet to be evacuated. They are asking us to give them supplies like rice and dal but are not willing to leave the village. They have proper houses but we are afraid they wont be safe here. They dont realise how strong the cyclone is, said revenue official V Vijay Babu.
The situation was similar in Akkivaram and Kalingapatnam. Intense efforts were on evacuate everyone,with police and paramilitary personnel forcibly evicting people. In Kalingapatnam,people who moved to shelters in the morning returned to their homes in the afternoon. Police then cordoned off the Kalingapatnam beach.
In Kaveti mandal too,people refused to be moved from Kottapalem,Borivanka,Battivanipalem and Onduru. People had to be forcibly evacuated from Sivakrishnapuram of Ichchapuram mandal.
Hours before landfall,the impact of the cyclone was already being felt in Visakhapatnam and other areas,as winds reaching up to 120 kmph struck the east coast,uprooting telecommunication and power lines and trees. Waves up to a height of two metres lashed the Vizag coastal areas. Power supply was affected in the three districts of Srikakulam,Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam. However,emergency supply has been maintained at government hospitals,primary health centres and other emergency services. Telecommunication lines were also affected with cellphone towers getting hit. Arrangements to supply drinking water for the next two days have been made by requisitioning diesel gensets at pumping stations.
At least 90,000 people living in low-lying areas of coastal Andhra districts were shifted to safer places. Heavy rains lashed the coastal districts and several small rivers,streams and rivulets were in spate. Police cordoned off large areas of Kalingapatnam near the sea shore,as waves up to a height of three metres and heavy rains inundated several areas.
The maximum impact was felt in Srikakulam district,especially Kalingapatnam,which is on the outer edge of area where the cyclone is expected to make landfall. Most of the people from the fishing villages in Visakhapatnam,Vizianagaram and Srikakulam have been evacuated. As rains lashed Srikakulam district,thatched roofs of many houses were blown away.
Srikakulam District Collector Saurabh Gaur said people from over 60 villages near the sea in the district,especially Kalingapatnam and Icchapuram,were evacuated and taken to cyclone shelters,schools and other government buildings. With government employees,who were on strike,returning to work since Friday morning,authorities could speed up evacuation and preparation of food packets,milk and dry rations.
Vizianagaram District Collector Kantilal Dande said about 10,000 people were evacuated to cyclone shelters,schools and function halls. We have arranged for adequate stocks of cooked food for today and dry rations for the next couple of days, he said.
Four Army columns that were stationed at Visakhapatnam were moved towards Srikakulam district and other affected areas. About 1,600 personnel of NDRF have been deployed. Moreover,CRPF battalions which are assisting local police in maintaining law and order due to the united Andhra agitation are also moving to the affected areas to help in rescue and relief operations.
A flood alert was issued in Vijayawada area and Krishna district as heavy rainfall was expected in the region over the next few days.
Residents of several fishing villages in Rushikonda and Bheemli near Visakhapatnam had to leave behind their belongings as they were evacuated on Friday night and early Saturday morning. Several trains were cancelled or diverted and flights in and out of Vizag airport were suspended. Fifty-six trains in the East Coast Railway division have been cancelled.
Meanwhile,the Andhra Pradesh power department has rushed centralised breakdown teams to the coastal districts to take care of power supply. Heavy machinery and equipment to take up restoration work have been moved to strategic locations,and the entire manpower has been diverted for the purpose,said APTransco in-charge P Munindra.