Hudhud: AP, Odisha mount massive relief efforts, Death toll rises to 24

Hudhud: AP, Odisha mount massive relief efforts, Death toll rises to 24

Andhra Pradesh and Odisha today mounted massive relief efforts on a war footing to restore communication and power links and clear roads that were battered in the powerful cyclone Hudhud in which the death toll rose to 24.

The worst hit port city of Visakhapatnam, home to a major naval base, resembled a war zone as tens of thousands of people in several districts were rendered homeless and over seven lakh people including five lakh people in AP evacuated and put up in relief camps.

As authorities grappled with fixing the badly smashed infrastructure in nearly a dozen districts, including Vishakapatnam which is home to two million people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will visit Visakhapatnam tomorrow.

"A total of 15 deaths were reported from Visakhapatnam district, five in Vizianagaram and one in Srikakulam," Special Commissioner in AP Disaster Management Authority, K Hymavathi told PTI, as authorities assessed the extent of loss to human lives. Three people had died in cyclone-related incidents in Odisha where no fresh deaths were reported.

The Centre, however, put the combined death toll at 17. "A total of 17 people have lost their lives--14 in Andhra Pradesh and 3 in Odisha," a Union Ministry of Home Affairs statement said in Delhi.

Advisor (Communications) to AP Government, Parakala Prabhakar said most of the deaths occurred due to falling of trees on the victims. Authorities in AP said yesterday the storm had claimed five lives as torrential rains and gale force winds packing a speed of nearly 200 kmph pounded Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.

The cyclone had moved from coastal AP to Odisha, where it damaged about 50,000 thatched houses, power network and roads, before heading to Chhattisgarh and weakening into a "deep depression".

Besides Visakhapatnam, the other north coastal Andhra districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari have suffered widespread damage. Odisha's Gajapati, Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada were the worst affected out of the eight districts hit by the cyclone.

The Centre was also keeping a close watch on the situation. The Visakhapatnam airport also bore the brunt of the cyclone fury with the roof over a portion being blown away due to the gales.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who has decided to camp in Visakhapatnam to oversee the relief operations, said in Rajahmundry that the government's priority is to restore access to affected villages, establish communication networks and take care of those provided shelter.

"There has been extensive damage to houses and electrical infrastructure due to the cyclone which passed the state late last night," Naidu's Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneshwar. Restoration work is being done on a "war footing", he added.

"Communication has totally collapsed...power and telecommunication. We are working on rescue. Our administration, so far as possible, wherever they can reach they are reaching," Naidu told reporters in Hyderabad.

Odisha Chief Minister NaveenPatnaik said the cyclone had its impact in different districts like Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Puri, Kalahandi and Kendrapara.
"Due to the hilly topography, the cyclone's intensity will reduce in next six hours and further reduce in next 12 hours. However, the area (Vizag) will experience heavy to very heavy rainfall for the next three days," Rathore said earlier in the day.

As the storm progresses, it will bring heavy rainfall to very heavy rainfall in Chhatisgarh, Bihar, East Madhya Pradesh and East UP and Gangetic belt of West Bengal, he said. "The PMO is monitoring the situation arising out of the cyclone at regular intervals," he added.

Aircraft services will be able to operate from tomorrow morning as the weather is expected to improve, officials said. Union Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth said the Prime Minister was concerned not only about AP and Odisha but also wanted other states, which could face heavy rains minus the cyclone, to be alerted.

Seth advised residents of cyclone-hit Vizag to exercise caution till the second phase of the high wind is over even as he lauded the efforts of the central agencies and state government in meeting the challenge.

Twenty-four NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) teams (each comprising 45-50 members) are on duty on the Andhra coast, including three that are on the way.
Six helicopters have been positioned in the Naval base here while two Army columns are also stationed in Vishakapatnam and at Srikakulam with power boats and other equipment for rescue and relief operations. In addition, 56 boats and launches have been deployed.

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