At least five people have been killed after Cyclone Hudhud with gusts up to 195km per hour made landfall on India’s easten shores, uprooting trees and destroying buildings.
Visakhapatnam, known to locals as Vizag, was worst hit with extensive wreckage strewn across the port city, home to two million people and a major naval base.
Emergency officials said the five were killed by falling trees and masonry. Tens of thousands had been evacuated to safety as the cyclone approached the shoreline.
The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the state that bore the brunt of Hudhud’s onslaught, said the extent of damage could only be assessed after the storm subsides, possibly by Monday.
“We are unable to ascertain the situation. Seventy percent of communication has totally collapsed … this is the biggest
calamity,” N. Chandrababa Naidu told Headlines Today television.
“We are asking people not to come out of their houses,” Naidu said.
India’s meteorological department had predicted damage in the coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. A storm surge of 1-2 metres above high tide was also forecast, which could result in flooding in some areas.
Military on standby
Officials stockpiled emergency supplies and rescue workers were on standby along the coastlines of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states on Saturday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a high-level emergency meeting to review the arrangements made in preparation of the storm.
Officials said four naval ships and nine air force helicopters were on standby for relief and rescue operations, while army soldiers and federal rescue workers were also on hand.
The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal – and have landed in either India or Bangladesh.
In 1999, a cyclone devastated Odisha’s coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.