New Delhi, Nov 27 :
The cyclonic storm Lehar in the Bay of Bengal Wednesday moved further towards the Andhra Pradesh coast and could cross it Thursday causing extensive damage, officials said.
The “very severe” cyclonic storm was now centered about 650 km east-southeast of Machillipatnam and 600 km east-southeast of Kakinada in the state, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
“The cyclone moved west-northwestward with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours,” the IMD said.
The IMD has forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall from Wednesday evening over coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam district of Puducherry.
“(The) intensity would gradually increase at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall over coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam district Thursday,” the IMD said.
It warned of extensive damage to mud houses and agricultural crops, and disruption of power and communication lines as well as rail and road traffic.
IMD has called for total suspension of fishing operations.
It also called for mobilizing evacuation from coastal areas and judicious regulation of rail and road traffic and asked people in affected areas to remain indoors.
An IMD bulletin said squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would commence along and off Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha coasts Wednesday evening.
The wind speed would be 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph over Vizianagaram and Prakasham districts of Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall.
The sea would be rough to very rough from Wednesday evening and become “phenomenal” Thursday.
The IMD said the storm surge with height of about two-three metres above astronomical tide would inundate low lying areas of West and East Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra and Yanam.
Lehar will be the second cyclone to hit Andhra coast. Helen hit the coast near Machilipatnam last week killing six people.
Cyclone Phailin and heavy rains last month claimed 58 lives and damaged crops over 13 lakh hectares.
The Andhra Pradesh government has alerted all nine coastal districts and directed district officials to take precautionary measures including evacuation of people from low-lying areas.
The government has sought four helicopters and 15 additional teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from the central government to meet any contingency.
The army, the navy and the Coast Guard have been alerted. Authorities have told fishermen not to venture into the sea while those already in the sea were directed to return.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy Tuesday reviewed preparedness to tackle the cyclone threat. He directed the officials to take all precautions to minimize loss of lives and property.
East Godavari District Collector Neetu Prasad said a holiday had been declared for all educational institutions Wednesday and Thursday. Shops and business establishments would remain closed Thursday.
She said the intensity of Lehar could be double than the 1996 cyclone that hit Konaseema region as the wind speed could reach 200 kmph. She appealed to people in low-lying areas to cooperate with the authorities in evacuation efforts.
Lehar will be the second cyclone to hit Andhra coast. Helen hit the coast near Machilipatnam last week killing six people and damaging crops over four lakh hectares.
Cyclone Phailin and heavy rains last month claimed 58 lives and damaged crops over 13 lakh hectares. (IANS)