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Respite for coastal Andhra as cyclone weakens

Hyderabad, May 21 (Calcutta Tube) Coastal Andhra Pradesh received some respite Friday as cyclonic storm Laila weakened into a depression, but only after three days of rains and gales had left 27 people dead and caused terrible destruction.

The cyclone, stationary early Friday near Machilipatnam, has now moved north-northeastwards and weakened into a depression. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), it lay centred at about 100 km west of Kakinada.

‘The system is likely to weaken further and move in a north-northeasterly direction,’ said an IMD bulletin.

It has forecast widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy falls over north coastal Andhra Pradesh and adjoining Telangana.

The weakening of the cyclone will provide relief to people in coastal Andhra, especially cyclone-hit south coastal districts. Officials said the intensity of rains and the speed of gales had come down.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah advised officials to remain on alert for the next two days.

The relief operations are in full swing in south coastal districts of Prakasam, Guntur, Nellore and Krishna. More than 70,000 people have moved to relief camps, a majority of them in the worst-hit Prakasam district.

The cyclone, which hit the coast near Bapatla town in Guntur district, has claimed 17 lives. However, the death in rain-related incidents toll since Tuesday has gone up to 27.

Four members of a family, including two children, were killed in a wall collapse in Vijayawada early Friday.

According to officials in the disaster management department, Krishna district accounted for seven deaths. Four people were killed in Nellore, three in Guntur, two in East Godavari and one in Prakasam district.

Three people are missing.

Laila left a trail of destruction in the four districts, damaging houses and crops, paralyzing transport system and disrupting electricity and communication. Electricity supply was disrupted to 1,047 villages.

The rains and gales damaged 85 houses fully and 187 partly. Fishermen have lost 262 boats while another 1,450 boats were damaged in seven districts.

According to preliminary reports, 5,800 hectares of agricultural crops and 6,060 hectares of horticulture crops like mango and banana were damaged.

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

Authorities have kept ready 10 helicopters while the 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.

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