The severe cyclonic storm, `Laila', weakened into a cyclonic storm and remained practically stationary near Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Friday morning, causing very heavy rains in Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said `Laila' is likely to weaken gradually and move initially in a northerly direction and then recurve into a northeasterly direction towards Orissa. It has forecast widespread rainfall over north coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the next 24 hours and gale force wind with speed reaching 75-85 kmph along and off the coast during the next 12 hours.

The death toll in the cyclone rains went up to 17 ( seven in Krishna, four in Nellore, three in Guntur, two in East Godavari and One in Prakasam). Three fishemen were still missing, two in Krishna and one in East Godavari.

As a result of unabated battering by heavy rains, several housing colonies and an APSRTC bus depot came under waist deep water at Vijayawada.

A picture of human misery unfolded in Prakasam district which bore the brunt of the fury on Thursday. Thousands of families were rendered homeless following inundation of many villages and towns.

Although the Kolkata-Chennai highway passing through Ongole town was fully restored, vehicular traffic was held up at some places as water flowed over the road. Several rivulets, including Gundlakamma and Pothuraju Kalva, rose suddenly, flooding neighbouring villages.

Ongole town, which is the district headquarters of Prakasam, had to go without power supply following breakdown of transformers and substations. Power utilities commenced a massive operation to restore power supply.

Many villages in the district reported record levels of rainfall, with Addanki receiving 522 mm during the 24-hour period ending 8.30 am Friday.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, who revewed the situation with ministers and officials, postponed an aerial survey of Prakasam district that he planned yesterday due to inclement weather. Likewise, none of the nine helicopters positioned for rescue and relief operations at Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad could take off to Ongole. About 300 army personnel have been despatched to Ongole to assist in rescue and relief operations.

Briefing reporters, Revenue Minister D. Prasada Rao said over 71,000 people were being sheltered in 300 relief camps in the affected districts. Crops over 30,000 acres were damaged. Similarly, 262 boats were lost and 1,460 others damaged.