Much to the relief of the people on India’s eastern coast, the much-feared Cyclone Lehar has weakened and will make landfall as a deep depression.
Reports quoting the Indian Meteorological Department said Lehar had slowed down to 15 kph over the Bay of Bengal as of Thursday morning, and was centred around 250km from the coast, some 465km from the provincial capital Hyderabad.
Lehar is expected to make landfall later in the day.
Not wanting to take chances, government agencies continue to be on alert and at least 26,000 people have been evacuated from vulnerable areas near the coast. The army, navy and air force are on alert and the federal National Disaster Response Force has sent several teams across the coastal region.
Winds blowing from central India, the low winter temperature of water near the coast and wind shear had resulted in Lehar weakening, according to top disaster management official C Parthasarathi.
On Wednesday, officials had warned of Lehar turning into a severe cyclone, capable of causing widespread destruction akin to the one in 1996 that had killed hundreds.
Lehar was the third storm in recent weeks. On October 12, Cyclone Phailin affected at least 17 districts of eastern Odisha state. The resulting heavy rainfall killed 58 people and damaged 13 hectares of agriculture land.
Last week, another cyclone, Helen, rammed the eastern coast causing the death of at least six people.