Visakhapatnam, Oct 12: Cyclone Hudhud blasted the eastern seaboard today with gusts of up to 195 kilometres an hour (over 120 mph), uprooting trees, damaging buildings and killing at least two despite a major evacuation effort.
The port city of Visakhapatnam, home to two million people and a major naval base, was hammered as the cyclone made landfall, unleashing the huge destructive force it had sucked up from the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Fallen trees and wreckage were strewn across the streets of Visakhapatnam, known as Vizag.
"The Visakhapatnam situation is very serious," said K. Hymavathi, the special commissioner for disaster management for Andhra Pradesh.
The national disaster relief agency organised the evacuation of more than 150,000 people on Saturday to minimise the toll from Hudhud - which is similar in size and power to cyclone Phailin that devastated the area one year ago to the day.
The winds in Vizag were deafening, sounding at times like explosions.
"I never imagined that a cyclone could be so dangerous and devastating," said a businessman from Gujarat staying at a local hotel. "I'm even afraid to stay in my room - the noise it is making would terrify anyone."
Vizag port suspended operations on Saturday night, with its head saying that 17 ships which had been in the harbour were moving offshore where they would be less at risk from high seas.
The city airport was closed and train services suspended.
Hudhud was likely to batter a 200-300 km stretch of coastline for several hours on Sunday before losing force as it tracks inland, weather forecasters said.
According to the IMD, its peak wind speeds will drop to 60 km/hour by Monday afternoon. Hudhud is expected to continue to dump heavy rains and, eventually, snow when it reaches the Himalayan mountains.