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Cyclone 'Helen' to cross Andhra coast Thursday
Wednesday November 20, 2013 8:13 PM, IANS

Even before Andhra Pradesh could recover from the destruction caused by last month's cyclone 'Phailin' and heavy rain, its coastal region faces another cyclonic storm.

Christened 'Helen' by meteorologists, the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal is likely to cross the southern Andhra coast near Kavali between Sriharikota and Ongole Thursday night.

According to a bulletin by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) Wednesday afternoon, 'Helen' lay centred about 430 km east of Kavali, 330 km east-southeast of Machilipatnam and 310 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam.

"The system would further intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during next 24 hours. It would move west-northwestward for some time, then west-southwestward and cross the south Andhra Pradesh coast around Nov 21 night," the bulletin said.

The IMD has forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places in coastal Andhra from Wednesday night. Isolated extremely heavy rain of 25 cm or more would occur over south coastal Andhra over the next two days.

Winds with speeds reaching 55-65 km per hour and going upto 75 kmph would prevail along and off south coastal Andhra from Wednesday night. The wind speed would increase to 100-110 kmph when the cyclone makes landfall.

"Storm surge of about 1 to 1.5m height above astronomical tide would inundate the low-lying areas of Nellore, Prakasham, Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall," the IMD bulletin has warned.

Extensive damage is likely to huts and weak structures. Minor damage is also likely to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large trees.

The IMD has suggested total suspension of fishing operations. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea. It also suggested that coastal hutment dwellers be moved to safer places and said people in affected areas should remain indoors.

Following the IMD warning, the state government has sounded an alert in the coastal region, especially in south coastal districts.

C. Parthasarathi, commissioner, disaster management, told reporters in Hyderabad that all steps were being taken to minimise losses due to the cyclone.

He said 52 'mandals' or blocks in Nellore district and 11 in Prakasam district were likely to be affected by the cyclone. The government has alerted the district collectors and directed them to evacuate people from low-lying areas.

A control room has also been set up at the state secretariat in Hyderabad.

Two persons were killed and crops planted over hundreds of acres were damaged in Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra when 'Phailin' crossed Odisha coast Oct 12. Though Andhra escaped the fury of the cyclone, heavy rain a few days later killed 58 people and damaged crops in over 13 lakh hectares.

The state government sought central aid of Rs.6,510 crore for relief and rehabilitation in the areas affected by 'Phailin' and heavy rain. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Nov 9 announced Rs.1,000 crore as immediate relief.

A team of central government officials is currently visiting the state to assess the damage caused by the cyclone and the subsequent rains.

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