The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday scampered to secure thousands of lives in the Machilipatnam area, in the middle of the state’s coastline, as Cyclone Helen changed course and drifted nearly 150 kms from the initial place of expected landfall near Ongole town in the southern coast.
The storm is now expected to make landfall near Machilipatnam on Friday afternoon or in the evening, packing wind speeds up to 120 kph (75 mph).
Helen is also expected to cause a storm surge of about 1-1.5 metres above the tide, potentially inundating low-lying coastal areas and flooding escape routes.
The severe cyclonic storm is a level lower than the last month’s Cyclone Phailin, which had battered vast areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The subsequent rains has also lead to severe flooding in several districts of Odisha.
Helen would show its affect primarily on the Kirshna, Guntur, East and West Godavari districts, said Sudhakar Rao, director, Met office, Hyderabad.
On Thursday, the Bay of Bengal was in spate along these areas, with tides damaging coastal roads. Rains pounded several coastal districts as the met department warned of heavy to very rains in the next 48 hours.
Rayalaseema and Telangana would also receive rains as an effect of the storm.
Meanwhile, the state government is reviewing the situation, setting up control rooms in these districts. People in the low-lying areas are being shifted to safer shelters. Fishermen are coming back from the seas.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state machinery have been deployed with rescue equipment and essentials like medicines.
Cyclone Helen is likely to cause extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and disrupt power and communication lines, the India
Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Thursday.
Officials were widely praised for a mass evacuation that saved thousands of lives last month when Cyclone Phailin struck, even though at least 43 people were killed and 12 million people affected as homes were destroyed and farmland inundated.
State Disaster Management Commissioner C Parthasarathy said he was working with the same teams deployed for Phailin to move residents to safety before Helen comes hurtling inland.
“We have prepared an evacuation plan,” said Parthasarathy. “They are on the job.” Helen is expected to cause a storm surge of about 1.0-1.5 metres above the tide, potentially inundating low-lying coastal areas and flooding escape routes, the IMD said.
Shashidhar Reddy, vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said he has spoken to district officials who had identified about 100,000 residents who are being evacuated.
NDMA has asked for zero casualty preparedness from the state government and has positioned six teams with two each in Nellore and Prakasam and one each in Guntur and Krishna.