Cyclone Lehar heads towards Andhra coast

    By IANS,

    Hyderabad : The Andhra Pradesh coast is on alert as cyclonic storm Lehar in the Bay of Bengal is heading to cross it Thursday.

    The “very severe” cyclonic storm is centered 1,030 km east-southeast of Machillipatnam, 970 km from Kakinada in the state.

    “The system would intensify further and move west-northwestwards and cross Andhra Pradesh coast between Machillipatnam and Kalingapatnam near Kakinada around Nov 28 noon,” the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

    The IMD has warned that a storm surge of two to three metres would inundate low-lying areas of West and East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam and Krishna districts at the time of landfall.

    The met department has forecast moderate rainfall at many places from Wednesday afternoon over north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south coastal Odisha.

    According to an IMD bulletin, squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would commence along and off Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha coasts from Wednesday evening.

    It would increase in intensity with gale wind speed reaching 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph along and off coastal districts of Krishna, West and East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam districts and 120-130 kmph gusting to 140 kmph over Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and Guntur districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall.

    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.

    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.

    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.