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Cyclone Helen approaches India's southern coast

(Agencies) / 21 November 2013

A cyclone is expected to strike the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh within the next 24 hours.

A cyclone is expected to strike the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh within the next 24 hours, India’s weather office warned on Thursday, advising authorities to suspend fishing operations and evacuate villagers living along the coast.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the severe cyclonic storm will cross the coast between Nellore and Machillipatnam, close to Ongole around Friday afternoon.

The IMD has issued cyclone warning to south Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coasts.

A bulletin by the IMD Thursday morning said ‘Helen’ over westcentral Bay of Bengal intensified into a severe cyclonic storm and lay centred about 460 km east-northeast of Chennai, 360 km east of Ongole, 260 km east-southeast of Machillipatnam and 230 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam.

Under its influence, rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places would occur over coastal Andhra Pradesh commencing from Thursday forenoon. Isolated extremely heavy falls (25cm or more) would occur over south coastal Andhra Pradesh on Thursday and Friday.

Squally winds speed reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph would prevail along and off south Andhra coast. The wind speed would gradually increase upto gale wind speed of 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph at the time of landfall.

The IMD has warned that storm surge of about 1 to 1.5m height would inundate the low lying areas of Nellore, Prakasham, Guntur and Krishna districts at the time of landfall.

Sea condition will be rough to very rough along and off south Andhra coast. Extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and minor damage to power and communication lines was expected due to uprooting of trees.

Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea. The authorities have hoisted warning signals at all ports along Andhra coast.

The state government has alerted all coastal districts, especially south coastal districts. The district collectors were directed to evacuate people from low-lying areas close to the coast.

A control room to monitor the situation has been opened at the state secretariat in Hyderabad. The control room numbers are 040-23456005, 23451043.

Nellore District Collector N. Srikant held a meeting with officials to review the situation. He said 69 habitations in 11 ‘mandals’ were identified as low-lying and the people were being evacuated. Two teams of National Disaster response Force (NDRF) were positioned in the district.

NDRF personnel have also reached Prakasam district. The authorities had taken up evacuation of people from 28 villages to relief camps.

Heavy rains were lashing Rajahmundry and other parts of East Godavari district since Thursday morning. Tidal waves washed away a part of sea wall at Uppada, flooding beach road and affecting the vehicular traffic.

India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage.

Last month, a severe cyclone called Phailin battered Odisha and parts of Andhra Pradesh, ripping apart tens of thousands of mud-and-thatch homes, inundating large tracts of farmland and disrupting electricity and telecommunications.

Strong disaster preparedness, including the evacuation of close one million people to cyclone shelters, helped save countless lives, said aid workers, who compared Phailin to a monster storm which killed 10,000 people died in 1999. 

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