As cyclone Phailin hit the east coast on Saturday night with wind speeds touching 200 kmph,uprooting power and telecommunication lines,11 mandals in Srikakulam,and seven each in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam were among the areas affected.
While several thatched roof houses were reported to have been blown away in the coastal belt in Srikakulam,there were no immediate reports of any casualities. However,officials were worried that some villagers may have been left behind as they resisted evacuation efforts earlier in the day.
Heavy rainfall and high-speed winds battered the mostly empty coastal villages and the nearby towns. In the biggest ever evacuation exercise in the state,at least 1,29,100 people living in low-lying areas of 294 villages of Srikakulam,Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts were shifted to the 115 relief camps that have been set up.
Nineteen NDRF teams,five Army columns with engineers,communication specialists and medical personnel have been kept on stand-by for relief and rescue operations. Round-the-clock control rooms have been set up at the state,district and mandal levels. The Centre has provided two helicopters while eight more have been requisitioned.
While reports were just trickling in on the impact,officials in Srikakulam said hundreds of fishing boats anchored along the shore were damaged,and a large number of coconut trees were uprooted,bringing down power and telecom lines.
Heavy rains lashed the coastal districts and several small rivers,streams and rivulets were in spate,inundating large areas. Police cordoned off large areas of Kalingapatnam near the sea shore as waves reached a height of three metres.
The maximum impact was felt in north Srikakulam district,especially Kalingapatnam,which is on the outer edge of the area where the cyclone made landfall.
Most of the fishing villages in Visakhapatnam,Vizianagaram and Srikakulam had been evacuated,with police and paramilitary personnel forcibly evacuating villagers who initially refused to leave their houses.
Srikakulam District Collector Saurabh Gaur said people from over 60 villages near the sea,especially Kalingapatnam and Icchapuram,were shifted 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. We have arranged for adequate stocks of cooked food for today and dry rations for the next couple of days, he said.
Very heavy rainfall lashed Srikakulam district,where power supply was disconnected. Thatched roofs of many houses were blown away. Four Army columns stationed at Visakhapatnam were on their way to Srikakulam district and other affected areas. CRPF battalions which were assisting local police in maintaining law and order due to the united Andhra agitation have also been sent to the affected areas to help in relief and rescue operations.
The administration issued a flood alert in Vijayawada area and Krishna district as heavy rainfall was expected over the next couple of days.
Meanwhie,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 were cancelled.