NEW DELHI, HYDERABAD: A cyclone packing winds of up to 150km/h and heavy rains hit eastern India early Thursday, with over 300,000 people evacuated from low-lying areas and two men reported killed.
Officials in neighbouring Bangladesh said they were on alert in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, home to around one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in tarpaulin and bamboo shelters.
Cyclone Titli, which intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm” over the Bay of Bengal, made landfall on India’s eastern coast early Thursday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.
Wind speeds of up to 150km/h were reported, with gusts of up to 165km/h.
One man died in a house collapse while another was killed by a falling tree, an emergency services official was quoted as saying by PTI.
The Odisha state government evacuated more than 300,000 people from five coastal districts on Wednesday while local schools, colleges and childcare centres were ordered closed and fishermen advised not to go out to sea.
“We have already evacuated three lakh (300,000) people and more may be shifted to safer places in view of the very severe cyclone,” PTI quoted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as saying.
They were accommodated in more than 1,100 cyclone shelters. Officials have also shifted 123 pregnant women to hospitals.
Trees and electricity poles were uprooted, officials told PTI, with roads and houses also damaged.
The Bangladeshi government’s Rohingya commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said the cyclone had brought rain to Cox’s Bazar over the last three days.
“We’re on alert. We’ve taken adequate cautionary measures for the cyclone,” Kalam told AFP, adding Dhaka had held meetings with agencies operating in the camps in preparation for the storm.
Severe cyclonic storm which crossed the coast near Gopalapuram in Odisha in wee hours of Thursday has claimed 8 lives and caused extensive damage to the property in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. While five people died in the worst hit Srikakulam district three died in Vijayanagaram district in incidents of drowning, house collapse and tree fall.
The severe cyclonic storm hit the coast between 430 and 530am with powerful winds and very heavy to heavy rains causing large scale devastation. Thousands of trees were uprooted, electricity poles fell down cutting off power supply and disrupting the communication network.
Road and rail traffic was come to a halt as tree fell on the roads and signalling system of railways was also damaged. Several trains passing through Srikakulam were cancelled and diverted. Some flights to Visakhapatnam were also cancelled in view of the bad weather.
While danger signal number three was hoisted at Kalingapatnam poet warnings were withdrawn from the port. How eve warning to fishermen against venturing into sea was still in force.
Though Srikakulam narrowly escape the eye of the storm still the region experienced howling winds of 110 to 140 kms per hour and some places recorded as much as 28 CMs of rains in less than 12 hours. Vajrapukottur, which bore the brunt of the severe cyclone received as much as 28.02 cms of rain. Palasa also received equal amount of rain. Several other places recorded 24 to 4 cns of rain.
Minister for Labour K Acchan Naidu who was camping in his home district Srikakulam said that Titli was more destructive than the 2014 cyclone Hudhud which had hit the same area. “IT has caused more damage but it will take some time to assess the situation”, he said. Fortunately the loss of life was less due to the precautionary measures and shifting people from vulnerable places”, he said.
Cyclone Warning Centre, Visakhapatnam said the cyclonic system will weaken on Friday to the grade of a storm but moderate winds would continue.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who monitored the situation from state capital Amaravati through Wednesday night and Thursday morning later left for Srikakulam to personally supervise the relief and rehabilitation work.