HYDERABAD, India (AFP) – At least three people were killed Sunday when Cyclone Hudhud slammed into India’s east coast packing winds of almost 200 kilometres per hour, ripping down power cables and forcing roads and railways to shut.
Around 370,000 people living along the eastern coastline were evacuated before the storm hit around 11.30am on Sunday morning, as authorities tried to avoid mass casualties.
“We have had three deaths since this morning,” said Natrajan Prakasam, a Disaster Management Commission official in the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh in southeast India.
Two people were crushed by falling trees, while the third was killed when a wall collapsed in heavy rains, he told AFP.
India placed its navy and coastguard on high alert ahead of the storm and advised residents to stay indoors as the cyclone passed by, warning of large waves known as storm surges.
Some flights were cancelled while bus and train services in the worst affected areas were suspended.
The head of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said the main highway in the port city of Visakhapatnam, which was in the eye of the storm as it hit, was strewn with fallen trees and electricity pylons.
“The two big challenges facing the NDRF team are clearing roads and evacuation and rescue work,” he added.
India’s eastern coast and neighbouring Bangladesh are routinely hit by bad storms between April and November that cause deaths and widespread property damage.
The region is populated by fishermen and small-scale farmers, many of whom live in flimsy huts with thatched roofs or shanties.
More than 8,000 people were killed in Orissa, the state to the north of Andhra Pradesh, by a cyclone in 1999 and authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of that disaster.