Hundreds of thousands of people are seeking safety on India’s eastern coast, fleeing a powerful storm that made landfall Sunday morning. Cyclone Hudhud is being blamed for several deaths after it struck the port city of Visakhapatnam (often called Vizag), destroying shops and snapping power lines along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
“I never imagined that a cyclone could be so dangerous and devastating,” a guest at a hotel in the city tells Reuters. “The noise it is making would terrify anyone.”
From New Delhi, NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports:
“Cyclone Hudhud is lashing the coast of India’s eastern state of Andhra Pradesh where hundreds of thousands have been temporarily evacuated. Since last Sunday, authorities have been urging residents to seek safer ground. Hundreds of shelters have been set up to receive them. Thousands more have been evacuated in the eastern state of Orissa, where a cyclone in 1999 killed 10,000 people.
“By comparison, last year’s Cyclone Phailin — which was likened to Katrina in strength — took the lives of several dozen people. India’s early warning system is expected to keep Cyclone Hudhud’s death toll low. But forecasters say the storm will do great damage to farmers. It is harvest time, and there are two days of heavy rains to come.”
Local officials say they won’t know the full extent of the damage until Monday. The power of Hudhud’s winds is predicted to fall quickly as the storm continues inland, with the area’s hilly terrain helping to dissipate it.
As part of the effort to accommodate evacuees, “South Central Railway has positioned four trains with 55 empty coaches at four major stations to serve as emergency shelters for meeting local requirements,” according to The Times of India.
In case you’re wondering, Hudhud’s name comes from an Arabic word for the hoopoe bird, according to the BBC.