A major relief operation is under way after a cyclone pounded India’s eastern coast, killing at least six people and leaving a trail of destruction.
Most of the deaths were caused by falling trees and collapsed buildings in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, which was worst hit by Cyclone Hudhud. A one-year-old child from the port city of Visakhapatnam was among the dead.
National Disaster Response Force teams began on Monday to try to restore power to affected areas as evacuees left cyclone shelters and returned to their homes, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said.
The storm struck just before midday on Sunday, bringing torrential rain and winds of nearly 200km an hour before weakening as it barrelled inland.
Authorities in Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Odisha evacuated about 350,000 people before the cyclone hit, in an attempt to avert the mass casualties inflicted on the area by previous cyclones.
In Visakhapatnam, which bore the brunt of the storm’s fury, homes had their roofs ripped off and hundreds of fallen trees and power pylons blocked roads.
Water and power supplies were cut off, and the city’s airport and railway lines were also badly damaged.
Modi to visit
“The government was able to reduce loss of life due to the precautionary measures taken,” Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu told the PTI.
|Cyclone Hudhud hammers eastern India|
According to local channel NDTV, Naidu has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare Cyclone Hudhud a national calamity in order to receive central government relief funds.
Modi tweeted that he would visit Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.
PK Mohapatra, special relief commissioner of Odisha, told the AFP news agency his state was “better prepared this time”, after Cyclone Phailin killed at least 18 people in the state last year.
“People followed our cyclone warning, there was hardly any traffic on the roads,” Mohapatra said.
Last year,India undertook its biggest evacuation, so far, before the arrival of Cyclone Phailin, with about a million people moved from their homes along the east coast.
Many evacuees returned on Monday to their homes along the eastern coast, which is mostly populated by fishermen and small farmers living in flimsy huts with thatched roofs, or shanties.