VISAKHAPATNAM: Fortyeight hours after Hudhud ravaged the Andhra coast, Visakhapatnam continued to remain akin to a ghost city. Though the government has launched a massive relief, rehabilitation and restoration work, the efforts are no match to the scale of destruction.
The toll rose to 25 with four more deaths - three from Vizianagaram and one from Visakhapatnam -- reported. A majority of the deaths were due to falling trees.
Amidst the unease, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas, accompanied by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. The extent of destruction apart, lack of coordination and proper distribution was glaring as the government tried to ensure relief to the affected people. About two lakh food packets and six lakh water sachets arrived in the port city for distribution.
But the reality seemed otherwise with scores of victims complaining of erratic distribution of food and water supplied by government employees and some voluntary organisations. Only those who are physically strong were able to grab some food and water packets, while others watched helplessly.
Similarly, the wait for petrol and diesel continued to be a never-ending affair as even young girls waited in serpentine queues. Despite the presence of police, unruly incidents took place at the petrol pumps, including attacks on the fuel station staff by irate customers.
Police took control of relief operations along with distribution of milk, fuel, vegetables and other essentials at some places. Police personnel were deployed at Rythu Bazaars, petrol pumps and milk booths to control the restive crowds. According to the disaster management department, nearly 1.35 lakh people are still taking shelter in relief camps.
The prices of essential commodities hit the roof with dealers hoarding them up and selling them at a high price. For instance, petrol was being sold in cans to those who cannot fight at ` 200 a litre. Milk is sold at a premium of ` 100 per sachet. There is no one to check the shylocks.
Meanwhile, restoration of road, rail and air connectivity besides power supply and communication network moved at a snail’s pace, as the removal of trees and clearing of debris, including electric poles, is proving to be a daunting task. The officials said that unless the fallen trees and debris are cleared, they cannot carry out restoration of power supply and communication network connectivity.
With regards to the power supply, officials said that nearly 4,500 electric poles are required to restore power in Vizag city and more than 2,000 have reached the city where the restoration works are in full swing, nailing the lie of the government that power supply would be restored by Tuesday morning. It appears that it would take least 48 hours more for restoration of power and communication networks.
Personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Armed forces managed to clear the main roads, and the arterial roads have been thrown open. However, the connecting roads still remain inaccessible for many. RTC has restored a majority of city buses in Visakhapatnam and also about 70 services to major towns after NH-16 has been cleared up to Srikakulam. Except for a few blockades up to Itchapuram which are expected to be cleared by Wednesday morning, the road is clear for vehicular movement.
While the railway connectivity is likely to be restored immediately after the restoration of tracks between Yelamanchili and Bayyavaram between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada section, the air connectivity is unlikely to be restored over the next one week. Meanwhile, the Indian Armed forces continued to carry out relentless rescue operations. Four such teams at Atchutapuram rescued 117 stranded people in Pudimadaka where the cyclone made the landfall.