Visakhapatnam, Oct 13 (IANS): Relief operations began in Andhra Pradesh's Visakhapatnam city and other coastal areas Monday, a day after severe cyclonic storm 'Hudhud' made landfall, leaving a trail of destruction and killing five people.
With rains receding in the cyclone-hit areas and intensity of gales also coming down, people came out of their houses, only to find that the scale of devastation is much higher than anticipated.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams with personnel from various government departments began clearing felled trees, electricity and communication poles and hoardings from roads.
While precautionary measures helped in minimising the loss of human lives, the cyclone disrupted electricity and communication networks, paralysed transport and damaged over thousands of acres of crops.
Visakhapatnam, also known as Vizag, bore the brunt of Hudhud, which hit its coast at 185 kmph. Hundreds of vehicles parked on roads were damaged while heavy rains inundated few colonies.
Airport, railways and bus stations were also hit in Vizag, which remained without electricity for the second consecutive day. With the collapse of the communication networks, mobile phones are non-functional here.
Parkala Prabhakar, advisor (communications) to the state government, said 70 percent of communication towers were damaged and the employees of the service providers were unable to reach there for restoration.
With no drinking water, milk and other essential commodities, people are facing severe hardships.
Long queues of people were seen at few shops and petrol bunks that opened Monday. With roads yet to be cleared of uprooted trees, electricity poles and other debris, Road Transport Corporation has not resumed city services. People came out on two-wheelers but the petrol bunks that opened ran out of fuel.
Road and rail transport remain paralysed in the region. Uprooted trees are yet to be cleared from highways. The cyclone has damaged railway tracks.
Railway officials said a decision to resume rail services will be taken after inspection of the tracks and required repair work.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who made an aerial survey of Vizag, said 500,000 people in four districts were shifted to relief camps.
Nine teams of officials are trying to assess the damages caused by cyclone, the worst to hit Vizag in over two decades.
As many as 24 teams of NDRF, two army columns, six helicopters and 56 boats have been deployed in the affected areas for rescue and relief operations.
Naidu, who reached Vijayawada by air Sunday evening, drove to Rajahmundry. He later left for Vizag in a helicopter. He plans to camp for three to four days to supervise relief operations.
He told reporters that senior IAS officers will be deputed to Vizag and other affected areas to monitor relief operations.
The chief minister told Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh over phone that all efforts are being made to restore normalcy as early as possible.
Out of five deaths reported so far, Visakhapatnam accounted for three deaths. One person each was killed in Srikakulam and Vijayanagaram districts.