BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - A cyclone slammed into India’s eastern seaboard on Thursday, killing at least five people, destroying huts, uprooting trees, snapping telephone poles and power lines and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity.
Strong gusts caused a storm surge with waters inundating low-lying areas in the eastern states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, and the winds, on par with a Category 2 hurricane, wreaked havoc on infrastructure, blocking roads and hampering emergency work.
“Five people died due to falling trees and a wall collapse,” Disaster Management Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh D. Varaprasad told Reuters, adding drinking water shortages were a concern in many places due to electricity failure and generator outages.
Tropical cyclone “Titli,” with gusts of up to 165 kph (100 mph), made landfall in the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh in the early hours of Thursday, the India Meteorological Department said.
“We fear that 6,000 to 7,000 electricity poles may have been uprooted,” K. Dhananjaya Reddy, district administrative chief of Srikakulam, told Reuters. “Around 400,000 to 500,000 people are now without electricity.”
TV footage showed massive waves, tin roofs of several houses being blown away and trees toppled over.
Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said so far there had been no reports of casualties in the state.
“There has been preparation at all levels within the state,” Sethi told Reuters, adding that it had used social media to keep people informed.
“There have been large number of WhatsApp groups working at different levels and they help,” he said, adding the state also experimented with a early warning dissemination system, warning those near the coast through sirens and voice broadcasts.
“Television channels, along with radio stations, also helped to spread messages,” he said.
Officials in Odisha evacuated over 300,000 people, suspended operations at the port of Paradip and canceled many trains and flights on Wednesday.
The Odisha Chief Minister’s office in a tweet on Wednesday said schools and colleges across the state would remain closed for the week.
“Operations at Paradip have been suspended and all ships have been shifted to deep sea,” said the Deputy Conservator of Paradip Port, Captain A.K. Mohapatra.
The Bay of Bengal often witnesses cyclones at this time of year, with some causing widespread death and destruction. Odisha was hit last month by a low-intensity storm.
Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Nick Macfie