By Bala Sai:
The signs of an impending calamity hung heavily in the air as coastal towns across Andhra Pradesh wore a deserted look, streets empty and doors shut, as scores of people prepared themselves to brace the coming storm. The Indian Meteorological Department was closely monitoring, as a low pressure area in the Andaman Sea grew and evolved into a depression and subsequently rose to a very severe cyclonic storm, all in a matter of six days before it crashed into the landmass a few kilometers near Vishakhapatnam. Cyclone Hudhud has been on rampage since. Here is what you need to know.
Apparently, naming of cyclones is serious business. Great care is taken before a name is chosen, so as not to offend anybody, given the magnitude of devastation that could potentially be caused. It was due to this that up until 2004, hurricanes in the region were nameless. However, a 2004 WMO-headed international panel stitched up a list of 64 names, with 8 countries- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand – providing 8 of their favorite names each. Every time a cyclone approaches, a name is scored off the list. Hudhud, which is Arabic for the Hoopoe Bird, was Oman’s contribution. It is the 34th name on the list. In case you were wondering, the next storm to hit the region will be Nilofar, named by Pakistan.
– Hudhud is the third strongest cyclone to hit India. Ever. As a matter of fact, it was almost the size of the Indian landmass when it struck the coastline of Andhra Pradesh.
– Arguably the most dangerous feature of a cyclone, the winds, roared at ghastly speeds of up to 210 Kmph, wreaking havoc across villages and towns predominantly in Andhra Pradesh, but also affecting Odisha and Jharkhand.
– Lowest pressure was recorded at 960 mbar, which puts it in the category of very severe cyclonic storm, cracking category 4 in the Saffir-Simpson scale.
– Sea waves surged by at least 500 metres at various places in Srikakulam and 100 metres at Uppada in Visakhapatnam.
– The winds were so severe that decreased speeds of 120-130 kmph reported six hours since the landfall sounded rather tame. To put that in perspective, the highest recorded wind-speed of Cyclone Nilam, which claimed 75 lives across India and Sri Lanka in 2012, was a mere 100 Kmph.
– As on Sunday evening, wind-speeds had reduced to 100 Kmph, leading to it being re-classified from very severe to severe cyclone. Wind speed is expected to drop to 60 Kmph by Monday afternoon.
– According to latest data, the total number of lives lost to Hudhud is 6. Three people died in Andhra Pradesh and three in Odisha. In comparison, the 1999 Odisha cyclone claimed more than 10,000 lives and caused irreparable damages which were felt even long after.
– An efficient disaster management mechanism and proactive measures by the governments concerned must be credited for the huge number of human lives saved.
– 70% of communication systems in Andhra Pradesh have been destroyed, radar systems have failed, and the exact impact of the cyclone can only be properly gauged once it subsides.
– Rescue operations are underway in full might, as reports of several people stranded in various parts of the states have begun trickling in.
– Gales, accompanied by heavy downpour have resulted in over 1000 trees and several electricity poles being uprooted whereas weak structures like bus shelters and huts have collapsed.
– There has been massive destruction of paddy crops, and coconut farms across the affected regions.
– Major highways have been shut down. 62 trains were cancelled and 51 diverted. Air traffic has come to a stand-still.
– The harbor was closed and over 60 boats were damaged.
– The state governments, in tandem with the Centre, have been proactive in dealing with the cyclone.
– Over the past few days, several emergency meetings were held at both the State and Central levels, and action plans and precautionary measures were repeatedly scrutinized, leading to an organized evacuation process.
– Over 4,00,000 people have been evacuated in a span of just four days to safer territories, thereby minimizing causalities.
– NDRF has deployed 42 rescue and relief teams comprising a total of 1775 rescue workers and 214 boats, strategically positioned so as to prevent maximum damage. Since then 13 more emergency teams have been rushed to Vishakhapatnam to handle the calamity.
– Emergency Hotlines were launched and are in operation.
– To gauge the extent of damage suffered, the NSRA has taken to extensive mapping using satellite data.
– To help in the process, the Andhra Pradesh government has released a mobile app which enables users to upload pictures and data regarding the damages suffered. Already, 300 people have downloaded this app.
– In addition, Andhra Pradesh government is using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the highly popular Whatsapp to obtain information on damages.
– Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Mr.Chandrababu Naidu has requested a relief package of Rs. 2000 crore from the centre.
– The Odisha state government is continuously monitoring the water levels in rivers Bansadhara and Rusikulya, and is preparing to handle possible flooding.
With wind-speeds reducing to 50% of what was reported at the time of landfall, all rescue and relief operations have begun in a massive scale. Currently, Hudhud lies centered near south Chhattisgarh and south-west Odisha. Though the strength of the cyclone has definitely waned, whatever remains of Hudhud will proceed further north, resulting in downpours across Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh before eventually ending in snowfall across the Himalayas, having completed its journey right across the country – born at the Andaman sea, and meeting its end in a snowy Himalayan grave.