Hyderabad: Heavy rains with strong gales lashed coastal Andhra region as authorities began evacuation of people from low-lying areas with cyclonic storm Laila intensifying further and heading towards the sea shore.
A high alert has been sounded in all nine coastal districts while rescue teams from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the areas likely to face the fury of the cyclonic storm.
The storm christened Laila is likely to cross the Andhra coast Thursday morning between Visakhapatnam and Ongole, said Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre.
Strong gales with speed of 65 to 70 km per hour have been lashing the region since Tuesday night, uprooting trees and damaging electricity and communication towers in some districts, officials said.
Districts of Vijayanagaram, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur are receiving heavy rains since Wednesday morning. Some places received five to 10 cm rainfall.
Nellore, Prakasam, and some parts of Rayalaseema and Telangana regions are also experiencing rains in the build-up to the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal.
At least 10 people were killed in rain-related incidents like lightning strikes and wall collapses since Tuesday night. Four farmers were also reported missing.
Authorities began evacuating people from low-lying areas in all nine districts as a precautionary measure as the weather office forecast heavy to very heavy rains during the next 48 hours. The rainfall is expected to be as much as 25 cm while the gale-speed is likely to be 115-125 kmph at the time of the landfall.
"Storm surge of 1.5 to 2 metres above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate the coastal areas of Guntur, Krishna and West and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall," warned the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its bulletin.
Over 10,000 people have already been evacuated in Visakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts. People living near the sea shore and the low-lying areas have been asked to move to safe places by Wednesday night.
In Krishna district alone, authorities have opened 120 relief camps. In West Godavari district, 100 buses of state-owned Road Transport Corporation have been kept ready for evacuation of people.
After a review of the situation here, Chief Minister K Rosaiah asked his cabinet colleagues to rush to the coastal districts to oversee relief and rehabilitation.
"The impact of the cyclone on coastal Andhra is likely to be severe and there is an urgent need for everybody to be on high alert," said Marri Shashidhar Reddy, member, National Disaster Management Authority.
The Chief Minister has asked district collectors to use helicopters, if necessary, for rescue and relief operations.
Seventh warning signal was hoisted at Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Machilipatnam, Bhimunipatnam, Kalingapatnam, Nizampatnam and Vodarevu ports while fifth signal was raised at Krishnapatnam port.
Andhra Pradesh has about 1,000-km-long coast line, which is vulnerable to cyclones, storms and low pressure areas over the Bay of Bengal during September-October every year.
Officials said this was the first time in 20 years that the coastal region is facing a cyclonic storm during May.