Nature wreaks havoc across Asia

Nature wreaks havoc across Asia

VISAKHAPATNAM, India - Asia felt the full force of Mother Nature's fury over the weekend.

In India, Cyclone Hudhud blasted the eastern seaboard yesterday with gusts of up to 195kmh, uprooting trees, damaging buildings and killing at least three people 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.

Upended trees and wreckage were strewn across Visakhapatnam, known to locals as Vizag. Most people heeded warnings to take refuge, but three who ventured out were killed.

K. Hymavathi, the special commissioner for disaster management for Andhra Pradesh state, told Reuters: "Telecommunications are disrupted - even our control room is not able to operate properly. People staying in their apartments are so afraid that they are panicking and calling us."

The low death toll reported so far followed an operation to evacuate more than 150,000 people on Saturday.

The cyclone was strong enough to have a "high humanitarian impact" on nearly 11 million people, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, run by the United Nations and the European Commission, said.

In Japan, Typhoon Vongfong slammed into the southern island of Okinawa yesterday, injuring 31 people and knocking out power before losing intensity and getting downgraded to a tropical storm.

Around 210,000 people from 90,000 homes were ordered to evacuate in Okinawa, 1,600km south of Tokyo, before it was hit by what was Japan's strongest storm this year.

Airlines JAL and ANA cancelled more than 400 flights, while the bullet train service was halted in Kyushu after the wind blew a plastic sheet onto the aerial wires of the line.

In the Philippines, lava is once again flowing out of Mayon, the country's most active volcano, raising fears that an eruption could be imminent.

The government had already evacuated around 63,000 people living within a 6km danger zone around the volcano, after it began to spew white smoke and some lava last month.

Activity had appeared to quieten down but a fresh cascade - confirmed by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology yesterday - stretching farther down the slopes this time, has prompted concerns that an eruption may soon take place.

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