Severe tropical cyclone Helen tapered off into a low pressure area on Saturday causing extensive damage to standing paddy crop and leaving six dead in the four districts of coastal Andhra region.
According to official reports, six persons – two each in Krishna and East Godavari and one each in Srikakulam and West Godavari – were dead while paddy crop spread over 3.5 lakh hectares suffered extensive damage. In addition, horticulture plantations spread over 8,700 hectares, mostly coconut and banana plantations in East Godavari suffered damage.
More than 25,000 people from 346 habitations in the low lying areas along the coast remained in the 93 relief camps set up in these districts as torrential rains continued to lash the region. Machilipatnam recorded the highest 19 cm rain under the influence of Helen followed by Pedaparupudi (15 cm) and Gudlavalleru (11 cm). Rainfall in excess of 5 cm was registered in 23 other mandals including Unguturu (9.2 cm), Gannavaram (8.9 cm), Allavaram (7.7 cm), G. Konduru (7.5 cm) and Nandivada (7.4 cm).
Over 60 fishermen who ventured into the sea in nine boats in East and West Godavari districts returned to the coast safely.
Thanks to the mobile communication system in place, the Fisheries Department could keep a tab on the stranded fishermen boats and brought them to safety with the help of Coast Guard and ONGC personnel.
The Government heaved a sigh of relief as the machinery could prevent major loss of human lives by taking precautionary measures though ‘Helen’ remained unpredictable by changing its course twice before it made the landfall at Machilipatnam.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy reviewed the situation with senior officials and announced enhancement in input subsidy of Rs. 500 for each coconut tree that was damaged.
Enumeration of crop damages should be taken up with immediate effect and the Central Government should be asked to relax norms for purchasing discoloured paddy, the Chief Minister told officials.
He also asked them to closely monitor the situation and ensure that the Government assistance reached the families that suffered losses due to cyclone.
Officials informed the Chief Minister that power supply had been restored in over 500 of the 700 villages that plunged into darkness after the supply was disrupted by trees that were uprooted.
Meanwhile, CPI state secretary K. Narayana demanded that the Government convene a meeting of all political parties to assess the losses besides announcing ex gratia of Rs. 10 lakh each to families of the victims.