Authorities in Andhra Pradesh were on high alert on Saturday as a severe cyclone 'Jal' neared the state's coastline from southwest Bay of Bengal.
In south coastal districts, authorities began evacuating people from areas close to the coast and low-lying villages to minimise loss of life in view of the warning from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) that the system may intensify into a very "severe cyclonic storm".
The IMD has issued cyclone warning for north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh. Jal lay centered over southwest Bay of Bengal at 5.30 am about 650 km east-southeast of Chennai and 750 km southeast of Nellore, an IMD bulletin said on Saturday.
The cyclone would cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts between Puducherry and Nellore close to Chennai by Sunday night, the weather office said.
It has forecast rains at most places, and "heavy to very heavy showers" over north coastal Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south coastal Andhra Pradesh till Sunday.
"Gale winds with speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 80 kmph would prevail along and off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh coast from Saturday evening. It may increase up to 120-130 kmph, gusting to 140 kmph at the time of landfall," the forecast said.
Sea conditions will be very rough and low-lying areas of Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh and Tiruvallur, Chennai and Kanchipuram districts may be inundated at the time of landfall.
Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea and the weather office has suggested that coastal hutment dwellers be moved to safer places inland. People in affected areas were advised to remain indoors.
Following the IMD bulletin, the third warning signal has been hoisted at Krishnapatnam, Machilipatnam and Nizampatnam ports in south coastal Andhra. The port authorities at Gangavaram, Kakinada and Visakhapatnam in the north coast have hoisted the second warning signal.
Andhra Pradesh's Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Dharmana Prasad Rao said collectors in all nine coastal districts were asked to remain on alert and take all preventive measures to minimise loss of life.
He said the state government had requested the army, air force and navy to be on stand-by for rescue and relief work if necessary. National Disaster Management Response Force is also sending its men and materials for rescue.
Heavy rains over the last one week under the impact of low pressure and vigorous northeast monsoon in the state have claimed 37 lives in coastal Andhra and damaged crops in nearly 300,000 hectares, according to officials.