AP on high alert as cyclone nears coast

Hyderabad: With the cyclonic storm 'Thane' closing in on the Bay of Bengal coast, the Andhra Pradesh government sounded a high alert on Thursday and directed Collectors of vulnerable coastal districts to immediately evacuate people living in low-lying areas and closer to the shore.

The "very severe cyclonic storm" that lay centred over southwest Bay of Bengal this morning, is expected to move westwards and cross north Tamil Nadu coast between Nagapattinam and Chennai tomorrow morning. It may cause heavy rain up to 25 cm in districts like Nellore, Prakasam and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, an official release said.

State Revenue Minister N Raghuveera Reddy held a high-level meeting with Chief Secretary Pankaj Dwivedi, Disaster Management Commissioner T Radha and other top officials to review the situation and the Government's preparedness in meeting any eventuality.

"Isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall is expected over south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema districts. The wind speed will increase gradually to 110-120 kmph, gusting to 135 kmph along north Tamil Nadu and south coastal Andhra from tonight," Raghuveera told reporters after the meeting.

Of the 72 fishermen who went missing from different parts of the state in the last couple of days, all but eight were safe, he said. "We have launched an aerial survey through helicopters to trace the eight fishermen trapped in sea."

He said Roads and Buildings, Municipal Administration, Electricity, Medical and Health and Fisheries department officials have been put on high alert. The Minister appealed to pilgrims headed for Tirumala-Tirupati to postpone their travel plans in view of the cyclone.

The government fears there could be damage to crops like paddy and groundnut due to the cyclone. Irrigation department authorities have been asked to ensure there were no breaches to major canals.