Odisha farmers on Wednesday rushed to shift their harvested paddy in the fields to safer places as Cyclone Lehar threatened to lash the state with heavy rain.

Agriculture Department director R.Santhagopalan told IANS that the total area under the paddy cultivation during this Kharif season was 3.6 million hectares and the harvested crops in about 15 percent of the area are still lying in the open. Mr Santhagopalan said Odisha expected a bumper Kharif output of 10 million tonnes this year. The target is now 6.3 million tonne as more than 20 percent crops were damaged by Cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods.

“We have asked the farmers not to leave their harvested crops in the open. They have started moving their crops from the fields. Those who have not done are likely to move it by Wednesday evening,” he added.

The Cyclone Lehar, which hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with wind speed of over 110 km per hour Sunday, lay centred about 725 km south-southeast of Gopalpur, off Odisha coast. It is expected to intensify and move west-northwestwards and cross the Andhra Pradesh coast between Machilipatnam and Kalingapatnam near Kakinada around noon on Thursday, the IMD has said.

The Bhubaneswar Met Office has predicted widespread rain and has asked the authorities to take adequate measures against standing crops in southern and western parts of the state. Disaster Rapid Action Force (DRAF) teams have been sent to ten southern and western districts which could witness heavy rainfall and flooding, an official said.

Lehar come barely weeks after two severe cyclones since October. Cyclone Helen hit the coast last week, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands of people in Andhra Pradesh. It killed six people and caused extensive damage to standing crops in that state. Helen followed severe tropical cyclone, Phailin which devastated lives and damaged property and crops in more than 17 districts in Odisha after making landfall Oct 12 night near Gopalpur in Ganjam district.