Workers clean up as deadly Indian cyclone toll hits 1714 october 2014, 11:40
Workers rushed Monday to restore communication and power links and clear roads after a cyclone battered India's east coast, killing at least 17 people and leaving a trail of destruction, AFP reports.
Relief centres ladled out food as officials said the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from the southeastern states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa ahead of Cyclone Hudhud's arrival had helped avert a far larger tragedy.
Most of the deaths were caused by falling trees and collapse of flimsy homes in worst-hit Andhra Pradesh. A one-year-old toddler from the port city of Visakhapatnam was among the dead.
"A total of 17 people have lost their lives, 14 in Andhra Pradesh and three in Odisha (Orissa)," a federal home ministry statement said late Monday.
The storm struck just before midday Sunday, bringing torrential rain and packing winds of nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour before weakening as it barrelled inland.
"There's no power, no water or milk, no electricity. We're not getting petrol. We cannot move on the roads," the Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed resident of the storm-hit area as saying.
The Indian navy were ready to sail with relief material while two dozen diving teams were deployed around Visakhapatnam, and two military aircraft were assessing destruction, another government statement said.
Authorities in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa evacuated around 350,000 people -- mainly fishermen and farmers living in crude huts -- before Hudhud hit in a bid to avoid large casualties caused by previous cyclones.
More than 8,000 people were killed in Orissa by a cyclone in 1999 and authorities were eager to avoid a repeat of that disaster.
"The government was able to reduce loss of life due to precautionary measures," Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said.
'Better prepared this time'
P.K. Mohapatra, Orissa's special relief commissioner, told AFP his state was "better prepared this time" after Cyclone Phailin killed at least 18 people in the state last year.
"People followed our cyclone warning -- there was hardly any traffic on the roads," Mohapatra said.
Mohapatra said 200,000 people had been evacuated from areas at risk of flooding in Orissa by late Sunday.
In Visakhapatnam, which bore the brunt of the storm, roofs of many homes were ripped off and hundreds of fallen trees and power pylons blocked roads.
Disaster management officials said clearing roads was their priority to ensure people could have access to relief centres set up in schools, hospitals and government offices.
Communication lines were snapped, water and power supplies were cut off, the city's airport was water-logged and bus and railway services were halted.
More than 40 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams began restoring power to affected areas to ensure "swift relief and rescue operations" as evacuees started trickling home from cyclone shelters, the home ministry statement said.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted he would visit storm-afflicted Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.
Some rivers were still flowing above danger levels in southern Orissa due to incessant rainfall that accompanied the cyclone, Anil Shekhawat, the disaster agency spokesman, told AFP.
"Water levels have not receded in districts most affected by the cyclone," he said.
India's east coast and neighbouring Bangladesh are often lashed by severe storms between April and November that cause deaths and massive property damage.