High alert sounded in all the coastal districts of State

Andhra Pradesh is in for another bout of heavy rains accompanied by strong gales as a well-marked low pressure area in the South Andaman Sea is brewing into a cyclonic storm and is likely to hit the coast between Tamil Nadu and Andhra on Saturday or Sunday.

The relief that was expected from the weakening of a trough in the Bay of Bengal that caused torrential rains turned short-lived as the government is bracing itself for the worst as weathermen forecast that the cyclonic storm may be severe.

According to the Cyclone Warning Centre in Visakhapatnam, the cyclonic storm is likely to move towards the north coastal A.P. before making a landfall. The storm might even take the shape of a super cyclone because of the long distance it will travel and thus gain strength.

A high alert was sounded in all the coastal districts after Chief Minister K. Rosaiah reviewed the situation twice during the day with ministers, meteorologists and officials as the system in the Andaman Sea, 1,500 km away, began to gain strength. The Army, Air Force and the Navy besides the Disaster Management Response Force have been kept on standby.

Mr. Rosaiah will undertake an aerial survey of East Godavari and Krishna districts. He expressed anguish that the untimely rains which destroyed agriculture and horticulture crops over 6.7 lakh acres so far threatened to dash the hopes of a bumper crop this year.

At a specially convened meeting of the Cabinet, the Chief Minister instructed ministers to immediately rush to their native districts and guide the administration in dealing with the aftermath of the heavy rains. Mr. Rosaiah said he would request the Prime Minister to instruct the Central team now touring the State to assess the damage caused by rains in September to extend its mandate to the latest disaster.

Revenue Minister D. Prasada Rao, who briefed reporters, said that over 5.85 lakh people were affected in Nellore, Krishna, Prakasam, East and West Godavari districts. The toll rose to 26 with seven more casualties reported from the districts. Visakhapatnam district alone accounted for 10 deaths. As many as 1,018 villages have been hit while 234 tanks breached and roads damaged for a length of 450 km.