India

Half of Millions Evacuated as Cyclone Pounds Bay of Bengal

Half of Millions Evacuated as Cyclone Pounds Bay of Bengal

A powerful cyclone pounded a large swath of India’s eastern seaboard with heavy rain and strong winds Sunday, killing at least 5 people and causing major damage to buildings and crops, one of two storms to lash Asia on the day.
In Japan, at least 35 people were reported injured as Typhoon Vongfong, packing winds of up to 180 kilometers (110 miles) per hour and heavy rain, hit the southern island of Okinawa and was aiming at the island of Kyushu, where authorities told 150,000 people to evacuate.
Cyclone Hudhud had winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour when the edge of the storm hit land after sweeping through the Bay of Bengal.Experts said the storm was likely to cause widespread devastation along nearly 300 kilometers (185 miles) of India’s east coast.
At least 500,000 people were evacuated from the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states ahead of the storm, and hundreds of shelters were set up to house them.
Television footage from Visakhapatnam, one of the largest cities in southern India and a major naval base, showed downed electrical poles, uprooted trees and massive debris strewn in the streets. Electricity lines were disconnected in parts of Andhra Pradesh to avoid electrocutions.
Four districts in Andhra Pradesh that are home to more than 14 million people, Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari were likely to be worst hit, including about 350 coastal villages.
India’s meteorological department said Sunday afternoon that the cyclone would weaken over the next 12 hours, with wind speeds gradually decreasing.
But heavy rain was expected to lash Andhra Pradesh and Orissa for another three days. Other parts of central and northeastern India were also expected to see heavy rain.
The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms inrecorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal _ and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. In 1999, a cyclone devastated Orissa’s coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.
While India has a disastrous record of response to natural calamities, it managed last October to safely evacuate nearly a million people out of the path of Cyclone Phailin, the strongest tropical storm to hit India in more than a decade. Phailin destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of crops after it made landfall in Orissa, but claimed only about 25 lives.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said Typhoon Vongfong could reach the Tokyo area by Tuesday.
The U.S. military on Okinawa, where last week’s typhoon killed three U.S. airmen who were washed out at sea, instructed personnel and their families to remain indoors until strong winds and rain subsided.

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