3 Andhra districts emptied, flood alert sounded

CycloneHeavy rainfall preceded Cyclone Phailin at Ichapuram town in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday afternoon. REUTERS

As cyclone Phailin hit the east coast on Saturday night with wind speeds touching 200 kmph, uprooting power and telecommunication lines, 11 mandals in Srikakulam, and seven each in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam were among the areas affected.

While several thatched roof houses were reported to have been blown away in the coastal belt in Srikakulam, there were no immediate reports of any casualities. However, officials were worried that some villagers may have been left behind as they resisted evacuation efforts earlier in the day.

Heavy rainfall and high-speed winds battered the mostly empty coastal villages and the nearby towns. In the biggest ever evacuation exercise in the state, at least 1,29,100 people living in low-lying areas of 294 villages of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts were shifted to the 115 relief camps that have been set up.

Nineteen NDRF teams, five Army columns with engineers, communication specialists and medical personnel have been kept on stand-by for relief and rescue operations. Round-the-clock control rooms have been set up at the state, district and mandal levels. The Centre has provided two helicopters while eight more have been requisitioned.

While reports were just trickling in on the impact, officials in Srikakulam said hundreds of fishing boats anchored along the shore were damaged, and a large number of coconut trees were uprooted, bringing down power and telecom lines.

Heavy rains lashed the coastal districts and several small rivers, streams and rivulets were in spate, inundating large areas. Police cordoned off large areas of Kalingapatnam near the sea shore as waves reached a height of three metres.

The maximum impact was felt in north Srikakulam district, especially Kalingapatnam, which is on the outer edge of the area where the cyclone made landfall.

Most of the fishing villages in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam had been evacuated, with police and paramilitary personnel forcibly evacuating villagers who initially refused to leave their houses.

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