The armed forces are ready to help the civil administration in Andhra Pradesh, where cyclonic storm Laila caused havoc, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Thursday.

Talking to journalists here, Mr. Antony said his ministry was ready to provide whatever help was needed from the Navy and other armed forces.

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting of armed forces officers here reviewed preparedness and planning of a swift response, said a ministry release. The tri-services headquarters, Integrated Defence Staff, set up a cell in the Andhra sub-area headquarters in Hyderabad to coordinate all rescue and relief efforts. The situation was being closely monitored.

The armed forces had geared themselves for a coordinated response in supporting the civil administration. The Army had moved three columns, each comprising 96 men including doctors, from Hyderabad to East and West Godavari and Krishna districts. The IAF had mobilised two Chetak and two MI-8 helicopters, while 10 AN-32s and an IL-76 aircraft were kept on standby to meet any eventuality.

One naval team of 33 men with five Gemini boats already reached Narsapur in West Godavari. Two Dornier aircraft and two Chetak helicopters of the Coast Guard conducted sorties to trace the vessels still out at sea. The Coast Guard had pressed into action an Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel.

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