New Delhi, Oct 12: The 44 teams of the National Disaster Response Force, or NDRF, stationed in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha ahead of Cyclone Hudhud, have their task cut out.
"The first challenge is to clear the roads," said NDRF Director General O P Singh.
Even before the cyclone hit, trees and electric poles have started falling, blocking the highways. The NDRF has moved a number of large metal and wood cutters from New Delhi to the two states. The saw-cutters will be used to tear up uprooted trees and other metal objects.
"Around 5.30 am today, a few of my men tried to clear the roads. But they could not succeed since the wind speed was so high - 140 km per hour. But we are working on it," said Mr Singh.
The second big challenge is to evacuate and rescue people. The rains, expected to start when the cyclone makes landfall, will make that job tougher.
Floods are expected in both states - and water has been released from dams to tackle the situation. But Mr Singh says it would be nothing comparable to the recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir.
"It is difficult to compare this to the floods in Jammu and Kashmir. That was urban flooding, this is a cyclone. In some parts of Odisha it may flood, but this is a different kind of challenge for us," he said.
"I would like to tell people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to remain calm and stay at home," he added. Already 3 lakh people from Andhra Pradesh have been evacuated to rescue shelters.
An estimated 67,000 people have so far been evacuated across eight districts of Odisha - Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal and Kalahandi - to ensure zero casualty, Special Relief Commissioner PK Mohapatra told the Press Trust of India.
But there are many who are averse to moving - especially fisherfolk, who refuse to abandon their boats.