The Andhra Pradesh coast may escape severe battering by cyclonic storm Laila that is showing signs of weakening before hitting the seashore. However, heavy rains with gales, which killed 10 people, brought normal life to a halt in the coastal region.
Weather officials forecast that the cyclonic storm may not cause severe damage when it crosses the coast between Kavali and Kakinada, close to Machilipatnam in south coastal Andhra Pradesh by Thursday afternoon.
"The system is showing signs of weakening due to increase of wind shear and land interaction," the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its latest bulletin at 7 am on Thursday. The cyclonic storm lay centred at about 120 km northeast of Nellore, 100 km southeast of Ongole and 120 km south of Machilipatnam. It is likely to move in a northwesterly to northerly direction and cross Andhra Pradesh coast between Kavali and Kakinada. The IMD has forecast widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy falls and isolated extremely heavy falls (25 cm or more) over coastal Andhra Pradesh during the next 36 hours. Fierce winds with a maximum speed reaching 100-110 kmph is likely along and off the coast.
It warned that storm surge of 1.5-2 metres above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate the coastal areas of Guntur, Krishna and West and East Godavari districts at the time of landfall. Meanwhile, heavy rains with strong gales continued to wreck havoc in south coastal Andhra. Several parts of the port town of Machilipatnam in Krishna district were inundated. Over 200 villages in the district are likely to be affected by the cyclone. At least 10 people were killed in rain-related incidents like lightning strikes and wall collapses since Tuesday night. About 25 fishermen were also reported missing.
The strong gales uprooted trees bringing transport services to a halt in several parts of Nellore, Praksam, Guntur and Krishna districts. Hundreds of villages remained under darkness as the gales with a speed of 65-70 kmph disrupted electricity supply system. Mango, banana and other horticulture crops over thousands of acres in the coastal districts were damaged. Authorities have alerted people in 777 villages, likely to be hit by storm surge in four districts of Guntur, Krishna, West and East Godavari. Over 50,000 people have already been evacuated while thousands of others moved to safe places on their own. Over 500 personnel of National Disaster Response Force have been deployed with boats and other rescue equipment. Four helicopters were kept ready for rescue while state authorities have also sought help from the Indian Navy.(IANS)