Cyclone batters India’s eastern coast; 24 killed

indiaaVISAKHAPATNAM (India): The death toll from a powerful cyclone which battered India’s eastern coastline rose to 24 on Monday, as the storm weakened and moved inland, leaving a swathe of destruction and triggering fears heavy rains would bring flash floods.

Packing wind speeds of up to 195kph (over 120mph), cyclone Hudhud hammered the coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states on Sunday, forcing tens of thousands of coastal inhabitants to seek safety in storm shelters.

In the port city of Visakhapatnam, home to two million people, government workers began removing uprooted trees which had blocked roads, restoring snapped power and telecoms lines and clearing up debris, including sign boards and corrugated iron roofs which had been ripped off buildings by the strong gusts.

Tens of thousands spend third night in shelters

Huge lines were seen at the few petrol stations which reopened after a two-day closure as people carrying jerry cans jostled to get fuel which was in short supply. Residents also resorted to panic buying items such as milk, candles and kerosene in some places.

Few shops were open and schools and many offices were closed due to poor telecoms and no power for the second day in a row.

Officials in Andhra Pradesh, which reported 21 deaths, said initial surveys found that thousands of houses had been damaged and there was widespread destruction to banana, sugarcane and rice crops in the districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, East Godavari and Vijaynagaram.

Tens of thousands of people spent a third night in cyclone shelters due to damage to their home or a lack of food or clean drinking water in their villages, officials said.

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