Cyclone claims 21 lives in Andhra, relief work begins 

Visakhapatnam (IANS): Cyclonic storm Hudhud claimed 21 lives, affected six lakh people and damaged over 6,000 houses in north coastal Andhra as the extent of destruction caused by it Sunday unfolded a day later. Relief operations began Monday on war footing.

Visakhapatnam, the largest city in the state which bore the brunt of the fury, remained without electricity, communication and drinking water as almost the entire physical infrastructure collapsed due to the cyclone.

The storm, which hit the coast near the port city Sunday with heavy rains wind speed of 185 kmph, left a trail of destruction, unseen and unheard by its nearly 18 lakh population.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make an aerial survey of cyclone-affected areas Tuesday.

Terming the devastation as unprecedented, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu sought Rs.2,000 crore as interim relief from the central government. He also appealed to Modi to declare this as a national calamity.

Viskhapatnam district accounted for 15 deaths. Five people were killed in Vijayanagarm while one person died in Srikakulam district. Officials said most deaths occurred due to falling trees.

Parkala Prabhakar, advisor (communications) to the state government, told reporters in Hyderabad Monday evening that 6,638 houses were damaged in three north coastal districts and adjoining East Godavari.

He said railway tracks and roads were damaged at 109 places.

While Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts suffered extensive damage, Srikakulam district faces threat of floods due to heavy inflows in the rivers and breach of several tanks.

The hurricane knocked down hundreds of trees, electricity poles and communication towers in the region.

The extent of devastation in Visakhapatnam, also known as Vizag, can be gauged from the fact that its airport, railway and bus stations suffered damage, crippling all modes of transport.

The airport and railway and bus stations were also hit in Vizag, which remained without electricity for a second day. With communication networks gone, mobile phones were non-functional here.

Prabhakar said five teams made up of senior bureaucrats had been deployed for relief and rehabilitation efforts.

With six people taking shelter in relief camps, 50 tonnes of material from Vijayawada and 50 tonnes from Rajahmundry have been flown to provide food.

He said the government was trying to restore telecom systems by Monday night.

He said work had begun to estimate crop and property loss. A total of 45,000 electric poles have been ordered to restore power lines. Of this, 2,000 poles have reached Vizag.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams with personnel from various government departments were clearing felled trees, electricity and communication poles, as well as hoardings from roads.

Hundreds of vehicles parked on roads in Vizag were damaged while heavy rains inundated several colonies.

The Defence Crisis Management Group has nominated the Indian Navy as the lead service for conduct of rescue and relief operations in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, under “Op Lehar”.

A navy statement said its ships Ranjit, Shivalik, Shakti and Airavat were ready to sail with relief material.

Four more ships have been kept ready for sailing at short notice.

As many as 24 teams of NDRF, two army columns, six helicopters and 56 boats have been deployed in the affected areas.

With no drinking water, milk and other essential commodities, people are facing severe hardships.

Long queues of people were seen at few shops and petrol bunks that opened Monday. Petrol at some filling stations was sold for Rs.100 per litre.

Chandrababu Naidu, who made an aerial survey of Vizag, said 600,000 people in four districts were shifted to relief camps.

Nine teams of officials are trying to assess the damage caused by the cyclone.

Naidu, who reached Vijayawada by air Sunday evening, drove to Rajahmundry. He later left for Vizag in a helicopter. He plans to camp for three to four days to supervise relief operations.