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Heavy rains batter coastal Andhra as cyclone inches closer

Hyderabad, May 20 (Calcutta Tube) Heavy rain battered Andhra Pradesh Thursday paralyzing transport and snapping power and communication links as cyclonic storm Laila showed signs of weakening before hitting the coast. The storm has claimed 14 lives so far.

Incessant rain accompanied by strong gales wrought havoc in the six coastal districts where at least 11 towns and 1,500 villages plunged into darkness and communication was disrupted as strong winds uprooted electricity poles, transformers and communication towers.

Heavy to very heavy rains have inundated several parts of the port town of Machilipatnam in Krishna district. Large parts of Ongole town in Prakasam district and Bapatla in Guntur district are also under water, officials said.

Bus stations, shops and even hospitals in the towns are under one to two feet of water. Road and rail transport was paralysed in several parts of south coastal Andhra Pradesh, especially the worst-hit Prakasam and Guntur districts.

Weather officials forecast that the cyclonic storm may not cause severe damage when it crosses the coast close to Bapatla in south 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 bulletin.

The cyclonic storm lay centred at about 50 km east of Ongole, 50 km south of Bapatla and 70 km south-southwest of Machilipatnam.

It is likely to move in a northwesterly to northerly direction and cross Andhra Pradesh coast about 50 km southwest of Machilipatnam later in the day.

IMD has forecast widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy rain and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (25 cm or more) over the coastal areas of the state during the next 36 hours.

Fierce winds with maximum speed reaching 100-110 km per hour are likely along and off the coast.

The IMD has 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.

At least 14 people were killed in rain-related incidents like lightning strikes and wall collapses since Tuesday night. About 25 fishermen are also reported missing.

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 Guntur, Krishna, and West and East Godavari districts.

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 have been kept ready for rescue while the state authorities have also sought help from the Indian Navy.

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