Laila kills 27 in AP

HYDERABAD: Cyclonic storm Laila remained stationary near south coastal Andhra Pradesh as heavy rains and gales continued to batter the region for the third consecutive day Friday, killing 27 people and inundating towns and villages.

The transport system was paralysed and electricity and communication disrupted.

Heavy downpour continued in the worst-hit Prakasam and Guntur district while Nellore and Krishna districts were also receiving rains accompanied by strong winds.

After hitting the coast near Bapatla town in Guntur district Thursday, the cyclone re-emerged into Bay of Bengal and practically remained stationary near the port town of Machilipatnam in Krishna district.

"The system is likely to weaken gradually and move initially in a northerly direction and then recurve into a northeasterly direction towards Orissa," an India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin said at 7.30 a.m. Friday.

It has forecast widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy falls and isolated extremely heavy falls (25 cm or more) over north coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the next 24 hours. Widespread rainfall with isolated heavy to very heavy falls is likely over south coastal Andhra Pradesh during the same period.

Gale force wind with speed reaching 75-85 kmph gusting to 95 kmph is likely along and off the Andhra Pradesh coast during the next 12 hours.

With the weather office forecasting more rains, the authorities said the threat for Andhra Pradesh was not yet over.

The death toll due to the cyclone rose to 27. Four members of a family, including two children, were killed in a wall collapse in Vijayawada early Friday.

Over 50,000 people remained in 255 relief camps.

"The threat is not over. People in relief camps should not return home unless the cyclone warning is withdrawn," said Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister D. Prasada Rao.

The heavy rains and gales have caused widespread destruction in south coastal region, especially in Prakasam district. At least 11 towns and hundreds of villages remained under darkness as electricity system was badly disrupted in the region.

The strong winds with speed crossing 100 km per hour uprooted trees, electricity and communication towers and damaged mango, banana and other horticulture crops over thousands of acres. Authorities said the exact damages would be known only after the rains recede.

Ongole town and dozens of villages in Prakasam district were marooned as personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) began rescue and relief operations.

Authorities have also kept ready 10 helicopters while armed forces have moved three columns and mobilised four helicopters. The Indian Air Force has also kept 11 aircraft on standby to meet any eventuality.

Road transport in south coastal district came to a standstill due to rains and uprooted trees. The Chennai-Kolkata national highway in Ongole town is under four feet water.

Train services remained paralysed for the second day. Over 100 trains have been cancelled while several other trains were diverted. The movement of trains between Chennai and Vijayawada has come to a complete halt.(IANS)

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