Cyclone Laila set to pummel Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday asked the authorities to use force, if necessary, to evacuate people from areas near the coast and from low-lying villages as the state prepared to cyclone Laila, which is expected to slam the state coast with gusts of up to 155 km an hour. With barely 12 hours to go before Laila hits its coast, the state is gearing up to face any eventuality.
Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the coast while four helicopters have been kept ready for rescue and relief operations. Over 500 personnel of the NDRF with 79 boats have been sent to Andhra from Orissa and Tamil Nadu, an official said. Nine senior officers were deputed to the nine coastal districts to monitor rescue and relief works, while ministers also rushed to the districts likely to be hit by the cyclone.
"The system is likely to intensify further and move in a northwesterly-to-northerly direction and cross Andhra Pradesh coast between Nellore and Kakinada, close to Machilipatnam by morning of May 20," said the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
The IMD has warned of heavy to very heavy rains of 25 cm and above and gales with wind speeds of 115-125 km per hour at the time of cyclone's landfall. "Storm surge of 1.5 to 2 metres above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate the coastal areas of Guntur, Krishna and West and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall," the weather office said. The IMD has suggested total suspension of fishing operation, moving coastal hutment dwellers to safer places and advised people in the coastal districts to remain indoors.
East Godavari District Collector M Ravichandra said 10 fishermen of Uppada village have been reported missing. According to the state Fishermen Welfare Association, around 100 fishing boats went to the sea on May 16 but only one has returned to the shore.
However, eight fishermen, who were missing since Tuesday, returned safely. Strong gales with speeds of 65 km to 70 km per hour have been lashing the region since Tuesday night, uprooting trees and damaging electricity and communication towers in some districts, officials said. Districts of Vijayanagaram, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur are receiving heavy rains since Wednesday morning. Some places received five to 10 cm rainfall. Authorities began evacuating people from low-lying areas in all nine districts as a precautionary measure as the weather office forecast heavy to very heavy rains during the next 48 hours.
Over 50,000 people have already been evacuated in the coastal districts. People living near the seashore and the low-lying areas have been asked to move to safe places by Wednesday night. At least 10 people were killed in rain-related incidents like lightning strikes and wall collapses since Tuesday night. Four farmers were also reported missing. "The government has asked the district collectors to use police, wherever necessary, to evacuate people from low-lying areas," Minister for Information and Public Relations J Geeta Reddy told reporters. A member of National Disaster Management Authority said in New Delhi that over 500 personnel of NDRF were rushed to Andhra from Orissa and Tamil Nadu with 79 boats.
"The impact of the cyclone on coastal Andhra is likely to be severe and there is an urgent need for everybody to be on high alert," said Marri Shashidhar Reddy, member, National Disaster Management Authority. Seventh warning signal was hoisted at Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Machilipatnam, Bhimunipatnam, Kalingapatnam, Nizampatnam and Vodarevu ports while fifth signal was raised at Krishnapatnam port.
Chief Minister K Rosaiah held a meeting with his ministers and senior officials to review the state’s preparedness.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)
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