Visakhapatnam: Chandrababu Naidu has slept sparingly since Sunday, say his aides. That's when Cyclone HudHud, named for a bird, swooped into Andhra Pradesh, its ferocious winds exacting the sort of destruction that will take years and enormous amounts of money to over-write. At least 20 people were killed in Andhra Pradesh, which elected Mr Naidu to office in May.
"The extent of the damage...you cannot visualize, imagine, assess it," said Mr Naidu to NDTV in the bus that he has turned into his office since he arrived in Visakhapatnam on Monday. The port city, known as Vizag, was slammed the hardest by the cyclone, whose portfolio of winds included some that raged at nearly 200 km per hour.
So far, at least half of the city remains without power. Lines at petrol pumps and ATMs are formidable. For the chief minister, the biggest concern is that phone lines remain dead, placing incredible limits on relief operations.
Mr Naidu says his diktat is clear - both for telecom service providers, and for the top ministers and bureaucrats who he has brought with him to Vizag. "We have to serve the people. And this is an emergency, a crisis. If they won't cooperate, I have to take them into custody. Even telecom operators. Everyone has to work extra," he said, making it clear that he will not ease up on the 24X7 shifts he has ordered for government officials.
Till an initial recovery is assembled here, he says he will remain based in Vizag. The Chief Minister explains that his mission for Vizag has been crafted in phases. "The last two days, we wanted to ensure essential commodities - (that) people should have food, water," he said. Next will be trying to repair the infrastructure including fixing nearly 40,000 electricity poles that were rendered useless by the storm.
The roof of the city's airport was tossed into the sky - for at least a week, no flights will operate here. "It is 500 crores (estimated damage) for the airport, 1000 crore for the steel plant, 400 crores for the university," Mr Naidu said, trying to illustrate why his administration believes that piecing Vizag back together to a booming industrial town could cost thousands of crores.