Cyclone Hudhud rips through India, while typhoon hits Japan

Atleast 35 people reported injured as Typhoon Vongfon passes through Japan

Children sit on fishing boats by the shore before being evacuated at Visakhapatnam district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Photograph: R Narendra/Reuters

Children sit on fishing boats by the shore before being evacuated at Visakhapatnam district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Photograph: R Narendra/Reuters


Heavy rain and gusts have ripped through a large swathe of India’s eastern seaboard, uprooting trees and snapping power cables as a powerful cyclone swept through the Bay of Bengal, one of two storms pounding Asia.

In Japan, at least 35 people have been reported injured as Typhoon Vongfong, packing winds of up to 177 km per hour, unleashed rain and gusts on Okinawa and was aiming at the next island of Kyushu, where authorities told 150,000 people to evacuate.

Cyclone Hudhud, described as “very severe” by India’s meteorological department, could pack winds of 193 km per hour when it makes landfall later.

The cyclone is expected to hit near the city of Visakhapatnam, one of the largest cities in southern India and a major naval base.

At least 400,000 people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states as authorities aimed for zero casualties. Hundreds of shelters have been set up to house the evacuees.

As the storm approached the coast, it picked up speed and strength and experts said it could cause widespread devastation.

Already hundreds of trees have been uprooted, Chief Staff Officer of India’s Eastern Naval Command S.K. Grewal told reporters, adding that 30 diving and 20 rescue teams were on standby.

Hundreds of rescuers of India’s National Disaster Response Force were also spread out across the two states that are expected to take the brunt of the cyclone.

Electricity lines have been disconnected in separate parts of Andhra Pradesh to avoid electrocutions, Arvind Kumar, a relief and rescue official told reporters.

Four districts in Andhra Pradesh state that are home to more than 14 million people — Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari — are likely to be worst hit, including about 350 coastal villages.

While India has a poor 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.

Meanwhile, a large powerful typhoon has been moving slowly towards Japan’s Okinawa island chain, packing heavy winds that have disrupted flights and knocked out power.

Typhoon Vongfong, Japan’s strongest storm this year, yesterday morning was about 150 km southeast of Naha City, the biggest city in Okinawa, and moving north at 15 kph, Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said. Its winds gusted up to 234 kph.

It was likely to be closest to Okinawa - 1,600 km southwest of Tokyo, and the home of the largest contingent of US troops in Japan - on Sunday morning Japan time, local media reports said.

The JMA said Typhoon Vongfong could reach the Tokyo area by Tuesday, gradually losing strength as it moves up the archipelago. Authorities issued landslide warnings and strong winds knocked out power lines, temporarily halting bullet train service for several hours on Kyushu

There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa, but there are two on Kyushu and one on Shikoku island, which borders Kyushu and may be hit. Operations at all were halted, in line with national policy.

Vongfong, which means wasp in Cantonese, was following the path of Phanfone, a typhoon that slammed in Honshu on Monday, disrupting transport and prompting evacuation advisories for hundreds of thousands of people. Seven people were killed, including three US airmen swept out to sea and a man who died while surfing.