A cyclone heading for the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha gathered strength on Wednesday, uprooting trees, triggering landslides and snapping power and phone links as it crossed the Andaman and Nicobar islands, government officials said.
Cyclone Hudhud is moving in from the Bay of Bengal and is forecast to bring gales of up to 140 km per hour, heavy rains and storm surges when it hits the coast on Sunday afternoon.
"It is now crossing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," the Indian Meteorological Department said in a bulletin today. "Thereafter, the system would continue to move west-northwestwards, intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours and subsequently into a very severe cyclonic storm during the subsequent 36 hours," it said.
Hudhud is expected to hit land between the key port city of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Gopalpur in Odisha exactly a year after the Cyclone Phailin hit the coast on October 12, 2013. It is not expected to be as ferocious as Phailin, which had touched a maximum speed of 210-220 kmph as it hit shore.
Authorities in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, shut schools, canceled ferry services and warned off fishermen today. The islands' key Andaman Trunk Road was shut after dozens of trees were uprooted.
Officials said heavy rain set off landslides and snapped some power and communication lines. They said that they were working to clear the fallen trees, reconnect disrupted utilities and had deployed national disaster response forces.
"I feel the entire situation will be fully under control," Tanvy Garg, the district commissioner of South Andaman, told reporters.
In Odisha, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said this morning, "I have just reviewed the cyclonic situation. All preparations have been made like those for cyclone Phailin and all the concerned departments have made contingency plans."
Mr Patnaik was universally lauded for his state's handling of Phailin. The United Nations said Odisha's handling of the cyclone would be a "landmark success story in disaster management." 21 people lost their lives in cyclone-related incidents last year. The state government said it evacuated almost a lakh people before Phailin made landfall.
9,885 people had died in the super cyclone that hit Odisha's coast in 1999.