Cyclone bears down on southern India

Authorities in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have evacuated residents from coastal areas while a cyclonic storm gathers strength, lashing the area with heavy rains.

    Officials have declared high alert along the coast (File photo)

    The storm, packing winds up to 70km an hour, was triggered by a depression in the Bay of Bengal and on Friday moved towards the southern districts of the coastal state, prompting the state government to declare high alert along the coast, Relief Commissioner D Roshaiah said.

    At least 5000 people have been moved to higher ground in the districts of Prakasham and Ongole that would likely bear the brunt of the storm, Roshaiah said.

    The area is about 250km southeast of Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh.

    Several train and other transport services were halted and fishermen warned not to go to the sea, he said. Officials, meanwhile, had reopened the airport in the coastal city of Visakhapatanam, which was shut since 12 October after rains submerged its runway. However, strong winds meant flights were unable to take off or land.

    The rains and the consequent flooding over the past week have claimed at least 90 lives, according to official estimates, in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

    Most deaths were caused by drowning, electrocution and building collapses.

    Tamil Nadu evacuation

    On Thursday, the authorities evacuated more than 50,000 people from low-lying villages of Tamil Nadu state, after its capital, Chennai (formerly known as Madras), was flooded.

    Water began to recede on Friday and the threat of a storm hitting the state subsided.

    The storm lashed the affected
    areas with heavy rains

    The storm was now moving towards the coast of Andhra Pradesh state, which lies to the north of Tamil Nadu, said weather official G Sudhakar Rao. Rains were expected to continue until Sunday, Rao said.
     
    The rains have flooded a key highway linking the two states and triggered landslides in some areas of Andhra Pradesh state, cutting off road links.

    A car carrying three people was washed away on Friday near the temple town of Tirupathy, police said. The passengers have yet to be traced, said an officer.

    At least 15 fishermen were reportedly stranded in the sea off the coast of Krishnapatanam, 300km southeast of Hyderabad, said Ravi Chandra, a local administrator.

    On Thursday, 103 fishermen took refuge on the island of Sriharikota - home to an Indian rocket launch facility - after they were caught in the storm while fishing, Chandra said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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