India east coast braces for Cyclone Helen

Agence France-Presse
India braces for a severe cyclone as it heads towards the state of Andhra Pradesh

HELEN.  A satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Helen over India on November 21, 2013. AFP PHOTO/NASA

NEW DELHI, India – A severe cyclone gathered pace as it bore down on India’s east coast Friday, with local authorities evacuating villagers and fishermen a month after a killer storm forced another massive rescue effort, officials said.

The storm packing sustained winds of up to 120 kilometers an hour (75 miles per hour) was expected to make landfall on the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh late Friday, accompanied by a storm surges of up to 1.5 meters (five feet).

The Indian weather office warned of “extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts. Minor damage to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large avenue trees. Flooding of escape routes.”

Classed as “severe,” Helen is considerably weaker than the “very severe” cyclone Phailin which slammed into the east coast further to the north in October, killing at least 18 and leaving a trail of destruction.

Some 20 rescue teams had been deployed in the flood zone on Thursday to provide help, Tripti Parule, spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency, told the Agence France-Presse.

“We are aiming for zero-casualty. That is our priority. Evacuations of thousands have already taken place and provisions for food, water and shelter are also on track. It’s the usual flood drill,” said Parule.

The most powerful storms which strike India at this time of year are classed as “super-cyclones” followed by “very severe” then “severe”.

Cyclone Phailin had sustained winds of more than 200 kilometers an hour which uprooted trees, overturned trucks, snapped power lines, and flooded large tracts of farmland.

In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone hit the state of Orissa, which took years to recover. –

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