A strong cyclone heading towards India’s southeastern coast gathered strength on Wednesday, uprooting trees, triggering landslides and snapping power and phone links as it crossed the Andaman and Nicobar islands, officials said.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts Cyclone Hudhud -- named after a colourful bird – is likely to pack speeds of up to 140 km per hour when it makes landfall between Vishakhapatnam and Gopalpur on Sunday.
"It is now crossing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," the IMD said in a bulletin. "Thereafter, the system would continue to move west-northwestwards, intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours and subsequently into a very severe cyclonic storm during subsequent 36 hours."
In the Andaman and Nicobar islands, authorities shut schools, cancelled ferry services and warned off fishermen. The islands' key Andaman Trunk Road was shut after dozens of trees were uprooted. Government officials said heavy rain set off landslides and snapped some power and communication lines.
Officials said they were working to clear the fallen trees, reconnect disrupted utilities and had deployed national disaster response forces. "I feel the entire situation will be fully under control," Tanvy Garg, the district commissioner of South Andaman, told reporters.
Authorities in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are on alert with the cyclone bearing down on the coast exactly a year after cyclone Phailin battered Odisha. The state’s effective preparations, such as the evacuation of close to one million people to cyclone shelters, saved countless lives last year.
Aid workers say the state’s disaster preparedness was thanks in large part to the lessons learnt after a powerful cyclone in 1999 that killed 10,000 people.
Met department officials said Cyclone Hudhud would be less intense than Cyclone Phailin, but disaster management preparations were in full swing in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
“The wind speed of Phailin was 210-220 km an hour. On the contrary, Hudhud is expected to have wind speeds of 130-140 km an hour. So this would be less intense, but we still monitoring and keeping a close watch,” said Dr M Mohapatra, head of the cyclone warning system at the IMD.
Odisha sets 'zero casualty' target as Hudhud approaches coast
Met department officials said fishermen had been warned not to go to sea as Odisha might experience heavy rainfall on October 12 and October 13 due to the effect of Cyclone Hudhud.
“All preparations have been made to meet the situation. All concerned departments have been asked to make their contingency plans,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
Panicked coastal villagers on Wednesday scrambled to buy items of food and fuel, from rice and potatoes to petrol. Potatoes disappeared from markets and prices of onions, vegetables and other essential items rose by about 50%.
(With agency inputs)