India evacuates people as cyclone Laila strengthens

The weather office said the cyclone was gaining momentum and was likely to strike coastal areas of rice-growing Andhra Pradesh state early on Thursday.

India evacuates people as cyclone Laila strengthens

Indian authorities began evacuating people on Wednesday while oil firms and ports stepped up their vigil for cyclone Laila which is expected to slam the east coast with gusts of up to 155 km (97 miles) an hour.

The weather office said the cyclone was gaining momentum and was likely to strike coastal areas of rice-growing Andhra Pradesh state early on Thursday, putting two oil refineries, India's biggest gas field and coal ports on alert.

The weather office has said the cyclone is unlikely to have an impact on the monsoon rains, vital for India's trillion- dollar economy which has been hit by high food prices, partly because of last year's poor rains.

The government has faced street protests over high prices.

"Conditions are favourable for further advance of southwest monsoon," the weather office said in its latest five-day forecast.

Heavy rains and lightning have already killed 10 people in the state, prompting authorities to block public access to popular beaches and dispatch relief and rescue teams to vulnerable areas.

"Sea condition will be high to phenomenal along and off Andhra Pradesh coast and very rough along and off north Tamil Nadu coast," the weather office said in its latest forecast.

The state's relief minister, Dharmana Prasada Rao, said disaster management teams had been called in and some 50,000 people moved to safety.

Ships would take precautions during the storm, said Pranav Choudhary, chief financial officer at the Gangavaram Port, a coal importing hub in Andhra Pradesh.

A spokesman for Reliance Industries which operates India's biggest gas field off the Andhra Pradesh coast, said the company was monitoring the situation.

Reliance's gas field has a capacity to pump 80 million cubic metres of natural gas, or about half of India's total output.

State-run refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd, which runs a 150,000-barrels-per-day refinery in Andhra Pradesh, and Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd , which can process 210,000 bpd from two plants in Tamil Nadu, are also on alert.

Local officials said heavy rainfall would help the rice crop that will be sown next month as rains would boost soil moisture and facilitate ploughing.

"Due to pre-monsoon rains, summer planning has started. If the state receives rain, the ploughing will further pick up," said Babaji Giri, director of the agriculture department in the eastern state of Orissa.

The cyclone is forecast to move towards Orissa after striking Andhra Pradesh, but it is likely to weaken by the time it reaches the Paradip port, a hub for iron ore exports.

G.K. Biswal, deputy conservator of Paradip port, said port authorities were on alert although they do not expect any disruption.


Reuters

Last Mod: 19 Mayıs 2010, 10:50
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