Cyclone Hudhud blasted India’s eastern seaboard on Sunday with gusts of up to 195 kilometres an hour (over 120 mph), uprooting trees, damaging buildings and killing at least three people despite a major evacuation effort.
The port city of Visakhapatnam, home to two million people and a major naval base, was hammered as the cyclone made landfall, unleashing the huge destructive force it had sucked up from the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Upended trees and wreckage were strewn across Visakhapatnam, known to locals as Vizag. Most people heeded warnings to take refuge, but three who ventured out were killed.
“The Visakhapatnam situation is very serious,” K. Hymavathi, the special commissioner for disaster management for Andhra Pradesh state, told a foreign news agency by telephone.
“Telecommunications are disrupted – even our control room is not able to operate properly. People staying in their apartments are so afraid that they are panicking and calling us,” she said.
The low toll reported so far followed an operation to evacuate more than 150,000 people on Saturday to minimise the risk to life from Hudhud – similar in size and power to cyclone Phailin that struck the area exactly a year ago.
After a lull as the eye of the storm passed over the city, winds regained their strength. Forecasters warned Hudhud would blow with full force for several hours more, before wind speeds halve by evening.