Seven persons were killed as cyclone ‘Laila’ on Thursday struck Andhra Pradesh coast, inundating large areas, snapping electricity and communication links and disrupting traffic.

Three persons were killed in Sri Potti Sriramulu Nellore district, two in East Godavari and one each in Krishna and Vizianagaram districts, according to the State Disaster Management authorities, adding two persons were missing in Krishna district.

As the cyclone made landfall near Baptla in Guntur this evening, heavy downpour was witnessed in the district and in Prakasam with the latter suffering maximum damage.

Ongole town, the headquarters of Prakasam district, remained waterlogged as it received 34 cm rainfall in 12 hours since last night.

The government directed the National Disaster Response Force teams to rush to Ongole to step up rescue and relief operations. However, official sources here said that Air Force helicopters could not take part in rescue operations because of the inclement weather.

Communication links were cut off while road transport was also badly affected in the district. Many rivulets and streams in the district were overflowing hampering traffic movement.

As electricity lines and transformers were damaged in the cyclonic storm, hundreds of villages were plunged into darkness besides 11 towns.

More than 150 head of cattle died in rain-related incidents in coastal districts. Harvested paddy in Krishna, Guntur and West Godavari districts was damaged badly leaving farmers distraught.

Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and West Godavari districts reported scattered rainfall, moderate rain was witnessed in East Godavari, Krishna and Nellore.

Chief Minister K Rosaiah reviewed the situation with ministers and officials this evening and directed the authorities not to lower guard till the cyclone warning has been fully withdrawn.

The movement of 51 trains was affected with South Central Railway (SCR) cancelling two of them. Others were either diverted or stopped enroute, officials said.

Even after landfall, coastal Andhra Pradesh is expected to receive heavy to very heavy rains for the next 12 hours, according to the Met department.

Special Correspondent adds

Heavy rains lashed all the nine districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh on Thursday inundating low lying areas and disrupting normal life as the severe cyclonic storm, `Laila', in the Bay of Bengal, threatens to cause devastation.

Although it showed signs of weakening, `Laila' continued to be severe and travelling steadly towards the direction of Bapatla in Guntur district. According to a bulliten issued by the Indian Meteorological Department at 7 am, "the system is weakening due to wind shear and land interaction".

Under its influence, widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy falls is likely over coastal Andhra during the next 36 hours. Gale force wind with maximum speed reaching 100-110 kmph is likely along and off Andhra coast at the time of landfall. "Extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and damage to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large avenue trees are expected", the bulletin said.

Anticipating the damage, the A. P. Government has shifted more than 30,000 people to safer places. The cyclone disrupted power supply to 1492 villages and 11 towns including Ongole, Kandukur, Chirala, Ramachandrapuram, Bapatla, Bhimavaram, Tanuku, Palacole, Mandapeta, Eluru and Repalle.

A Government official said the storm was likely to hit the Andhra coast by late afternoon. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of the cyclone changing its course and moving northwards towards Orissa. As a precautionary measure, Storm Warning Signal 10 hoisted across all the sea ports has not been withdrawn.

Three more storm-related deaths were reported -- two in Guntur district and one in East Godavari. Irrigation authorities lifted four gates of the Gundlakamma reservoir in Prakasam district releasing 5,000 cusecs of water. At least two trains -- Nellore-Secunderabad Simhapuri Express and Rajahmundry-Visakhapatnam passenger -- were stopped en route as the South Central Railway authorities feared that the track may not be safe.

Communication to the riverine islands in the Krishna delta was completely cut off while the road from Chirala to Ongole was damaged as Prakasam district received torrential rainfall.