Cyclone Laila lashes across India's Eastern coastline

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Cyclone Laila over India

Cyclone Laila packing winds of 110 kilometres per hour closed in on the east coast of India on Thursday as tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes, fearing major storm damage.

Laila hit the state of Andhra Pradesh as heavy rain and strong gales battered the coast, state authorities said at least 30,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas. The armed forces were drafted in to help the evacuation efforts after Andhra Pradesh's chief minister, K. Rosaiah, called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to request extra assistance.

Andhra Pradesh was under 1 foot (32 centimeters) before the cyclone hit. Heavy rains are causing road blockages and landslides. Bridges and culverts are under watch. File photo

The Indian Meteorological Department graded the cyclone as "severe", and said it was due to hit land near the city of Machilipatnam after moving from its current position 100 kilometres (62 miles) off the coast in the Bay of Bengal.

The department's latest warning said a "storm surge" of up to two metres above the regular tide was likely to inundate parts of Andhra Pradesh. It said large trees were likely to be uprooted, houses damaged and escape routes from the coast flooded. All fishermen were ordered to stay on shore due to "very rough" sea conditions, and the Asian Tribune said Reliance Industries had suspended crude oil and gas production in the Bay as a precaution.

The agency said 40,000 people had been evacuated from hundreds of coastal villages, while some air flights and train services were also affected. State disaster officials said that besides existing cyclone shelters, schools and community halls were serving as relief camps to evacuees.

Three people were killed when a shed collapsed during heavy winds in Andhra Pradesh, while a fisherman drowned in rough sea in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state. Local unconfirmed reports put the total death toll at between 14 and 17.

India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal, causing widespread damage to homes and fields. Last May, Cyclone Aila tore through southern Bangladesh killing 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres of roads and river embankments, leading to major flooding.

Sources

Andhra Pradesh location
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