Hyderabad, May 21:, A powerful cyclone slammed into southeastern India on Thursday, toppling power lines and plunging a large swath of coastal Andhra Pradesh state into darkness after heavy rains and earlier strong winds claimed at least 15 lives. State welfare agencies evacuated more than 50,000 people from low-lying villages as the region braced for its worst storm in 14 years.
The cyclone, packing strong winds of 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour and heavy rain, hit the coastal town of Bapatla, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of Hyderabad, the state capital. Waves as high as 9 feet (3 meters) lashed the coast.
Even before the cyclone hit, some parts of the state had received up to 1 foot (32 centimeters) of rain. Officials said at least 15 people have died in the past 24 hours, and at least 55 fishermen were reported missing although authorities had ordered fishing vessels to stay in port.
“We are making all-out efforts to prevent the loss of human lives and to minimize damage to public and private property,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said. Strong winds uprooted trees, power lines and billboards, blocking roads in many places.
Nearly a dozen towns and more than 1,400 villages in six districts were hit by power outages, state officials said. More than 10,000 people died when Andhra Pradesh was struck by its worst cyclone in 1977.
In northern India, a powerful thunderstorm Thursday caused 10 deaths. Six died when their village homes collapsed near the town of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh state, officials said.