400,000 people being evacuated as Andhra braces for Cyclone Hudhud

Visakhapatnam: Nearly 400,000 people were being evacuated as cyclonic storm Hudhud is expected to hit Andhra Pradesh coast Sunday.

Heavy rains accompanied by winds started lashing parts of the north coastal Andhra region Saturday evening under the impact of the 'very severe' cyclone in Bay of Bengal.

Authorities have closed Ichapuram-Kakinada national highway for traffic. Kakinada-Uppada highway in East Godavari district was damaged as water gushing out of sea due to high waves inundated the road.

Fishing operations have been suspended while highest warning signal has been hoisted at the ports in the region.

High alert has been sounded in the northern coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam and adjoining districts of East Godavari and West Godavari which are bracing for the cyclone, which is all set to make a landfall around Visakhapatnam Sunday forenoon.

Officials said 370 relief camps have been opened in five districts, where 396 villages are likely to be affected. In Srikakulam district, 1.85 lakh people will be sheltered in 110 camps. Over 86,000 people will be evacuated in West Godavari district and over 72,000 in East Godavari district.

According to India Meterological Department (IMD) bulletin issued in the afternoon, the cyclone is lying 260 km southeast of Visakhapatnam.

Thirteen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been positioned while three more teams are in reserve at Guntur.

Chief Secretary I.Y.R. Krisna Rao said the central government has been requested to send another eight NDRF teams.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who reviewed the situation with top officials, urged Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to provide satellite pictures as this will help the state in better planning of rescue and relief operations.

Meanwhile, according to IANS report from Washington, forecasts based on NASA data shows tropical cyclone Hudhud is expected to intensify and peak to around 100 knots (185 kmph) before landfall near Visakhapatnam.

NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Hudhud Friday as it reached hurricane-force.

The data showed the coldest cloud top temperatures were in thunderstorms. Cloud top temperatures were as cold as -53 degree Celsius, which have the potential for dropping heavy rainfall.

Four naval ships and 10 helicopters of Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) and 54 boats are ready for rescue and relief operations. As many as 689 swimmers have also been deployed.

Thirty rescue teams of the navy with boat and equipment are ready at Visakhapatnam while one column of navy personnel is moving to Srikakulam.

An army column from Andhra Sub Area is also positioned at Visakhapatnam.

Fifteen satellite phones will be used by the officials monitoring rescue and relief operations.

Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre has warned of rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls over West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts of north Andhra Pradesh and eight districts of south Odisha during next two days.

Wind speed reaching 50-60 kmph would prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha coasts during next 12 hours. The wind speed would gradually increase to 170-180 kmph around the time of landfall along and off north Andhra Pradesh.

The IMD has also issued storm surge warning. Storm surge would inundate low lying areas of north coastal Andhra.

Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre has issued agreat danger signal number 10' to the ports in north coastal Andhra, including Visakhapatnam port.

Extensive damage to kutcha houses, uprooting of big trees, partial disruption of power and communication lines are expected.

Fishing operations have been suspended along the coast as authorities have warned fishermen against venturing into sea.

The chief secretary said BSNL and other telecom service providers were urged to issue cyclone alerts to people living in coastal areas.

Round the clock control rooms have been opened at Andhra Pradesh secretariat in Hyderabad. The numbers are 040 - 23456005 and 23450419.

As a precautionary measure, the railways have cancelled over 60 trains and diverted many others in view of the cyclone.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has directed district collectors to be on alert in view of heavy rains likely to lash the state under the impact of cyclone.

The chief minister asked the collectors of all 10 districts to take all necessary precautionary measures and monitor the situation closely.

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