Massive evacuation operations began on a war-footing in 700 villages in Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur and Krishna districts as a severe cyclonic storm threatened to hit the South Andhra coast on Sunday night.

Moving slowly at a speed of 10 km per hour and gathering strength, the cyclone, Jal, lay 550 km east-south-east of Chennai and 700 km south-east of Nellore on Saturday evening. After analysing inputs from satellites and meteorological data, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast that Jal was likely to intensify into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm' while crossing the coast between Chennai and Nellore.

As the storm is likely to trigger tidal waves several metres high, as many as 188 highly vulnerable habitations in Nellore and Prakasam districts are being cleared of people. As there was still a long distance to be covered, Jal might pick up wind speeds of 140 kmph and above.

The IMD forecast was that heavy rainfall up to 25 cm in the four districts lying in the cylone's path would flood even escape routes. Gusty winds sweep along and off the coast at 120 to 140 kmph at the time of cyclone's landfall, possibly destroying semi-permanent houses, uprooting trees and electric-telephone poles and causing extensive damage to crops.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah reviewed the preparedness for the impending danger with officials of the IMD and State government.