Cyclone Hudhud was upgraded to a “very severe cyclonic storm” on Friday as it hurtled towards India’s east coast, where it is expected to make landfall near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh by Sunday noon.
The governments in Andhra and Odisha, which also lies in the storm’s path, will start massive evacuations on Saturday and has put the local administration on high alert. In Visakhapatnam alone, about 35,000 people need to be evacuated from 57 coastal villages and moved to 40 relief camps.
“The storm will gain in intensity and hit the coast at a speed of 140-150 kmph with wind speeds of up to 165kmph,” India Meteorological Department director general Dr LS Rathore said.
Rising waters of the cyclone would inundate low lying areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra, he added.
The gathering storm comes almost exactly one year after Phailin, also a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’, hit the Odisha coast, bringing gales of 200-220kmph that killed nearly 30 people and displaced more than 400,000.
“We are expecting Hudhud’s intensity to decrease 12 hours after hitting the coast,” Rathore said, forecasting rain in parts of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. There will be no impact on the climate in Delhi, he added.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has dispatched 39 teams — 1,573 personnel and 193 boats — to vulnerable places in the two states. “The Centre is closely monitoring Hudhud’s progression,” said home minister Rajnath Singh, after speaking to the chief ministers of Odisha, Andhra and Telangana.
Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and district administration person during a mock drill before Cyclonic Storm ‘Hudhud’ near beach area, in Puri. (HT Photo)
Schools and colleges in Visakhapatnam will be closed on Saturday. Fishing operations have been suspended in six districts of Andhra and four in Odisha.
“If people don’t leave even after the warnings, police will be used to evacuate them,” said Visakhapatnam district magistrate N Yuvaraj.
The armed forces are also on alert with four warships of the Eastern Naval Command and six naval aircraft on standby for rescue operations and airdropping of relief material. The Coast Guard has deployed 17 ships and nine aircraft.
The cyclone is also set to hit railway services with 38 trains cancelled and 31 diverted. Flight operations at Visakhapatnam airport would also be affected.
In Odisha, officials said heavy rainfall was expected in eight districts for the next two days. Rescue personnel have started mock drills in at least 323 multi-purpose cyclone shelters. “If necessary, people in the eight districts will be evacuated to cyclone shelters,” Odisha special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra said.
The scare is evident in Odisha’s Ganjam district, badly hit by Phailin. At Gopalpur, where Phailin made landfall, the beaches looked deserted on Friday. “At least 80% tourists have cancelled their bookings,” said a hotel owner.
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