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Cyclone 'Phailin' moves closer, thousands evacuated in Andhra
Saturday October 12, 2013 11:40 AM, IANS

Thousands of people were evacuated from north coastal Andhra as the cyclonic storm Phailin in Bay of Bengal further intensified and was set to hit the eastern coast by Saturday evening.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a warning for north Andhra and Odisha coasts. According to an IMD bulletin issued Saturday morning, Phailin centered about 260 km southeast of Gopalpur, 270 km east-southeast of Kalingapatnam and 310 km south-southeast of Paradip.

"It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur (Odisha) by evening as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 210-220 kmph gusting to 240 kmph," it said.

Over 64,000 people were evacuated from low lying areas near the coast in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts in north coastal Andhra. Authorities went on high alert in all nine coastal districts.

Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation N. Raghuveera Reddy, who reached Visakhapatnam to supervise relief operations, told reporters that the army, navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were on standby. He said helicopters were ready for rescue work.

NDRF teams have reached Srikakulam district, which is receiving heavy rains since Friday night, inundating several low-lying villages.

Authorities hoisted the 10th warning signal at Kalingapatnam and Bhimunipatnam ports and the eighth warning signal at Visakhapatpam and Gangavaram ports. Fishermen have been warned not to venture into the sea.

The IMD has forecast heavy to very heavy rains in north coastal Andhra during the next 48 hours. Gale winds with speeds reaching 70-80 kmph would prevail along the coast.

It would intensifify to 100-150 kmph from noon and 210-220 kmph gusting to 235 kmph along and off coastal districts of north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha at the time of landfall.

It has also warned that storm surge with a height of 3 to 3.5 metre above astronomical tide would inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh during landfall.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy spoke to collectors of the three districts of north coastal Andhra over phone Saturday morning and directed them to closely monitor the situation.

Railways have cancelled all trains in north coastal Andhra including the trains between Andhra and Odisha. The air services between Visakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar have also been suspended.

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