Indian weather authorities issued a “red warning” — the highest level weather alert — over coastal districts of southern Andhra Pradesh, predicting heavy to very heavy rainfall despite severe cyclonic storm Asani having already weakened.
Asani, which means "wrath" when translated from the Sinhalese, was still brewing in the Bay of Bengal and came within 34 kilometres of Narsapur city in the state on Wednesday, with wind speeds of 85kph.
The weather department has predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in the state and neighbouring Odisha state in the evening.
“It is very likely to move nearly northwards for [the] next few hours and [then] slowly north-north-eastwards along Narsapur, Yanam, Kakinada, Tuni and Visakhapatnam coasts during noon to evening on Wednesday,” the India Meteorological Department said.
“It will emerge into the west-central Bay of Bengal off the North Andhra Pradesh coast by evening,” the department said.
The cyclone is expected to further weaken into a depression by Thursday.
The weather office has predicted a storm surge of 0.5 metre above “astronomical tide”, inundating low-lying areas of Krishna and east and west Godavari districts of the state.
Authorities have sent teams of national and state rescue forces and naval ships are kept on a standby mission with relief materials. At least 19 flood relief teams are being kept at Visakhapatnam.
Nearly 300 relief camps have been opened in seven districts in the state and people from 500 villages in the low-lying areas have been moved to safe shelters. Fishermen have been advised to suspend fishing operations.
At least 37 trains and more than 50 flights were cancelled in the state as a precautionary measure.
“It has weakened but we have taken all precautions. People from low-lying areas have been moved to safe places and pregnant women have been shifted to hospitals. We are expecting minimum damages,” Dr MM Ali, who is in charge of emergency operations at Assam State Disaster Management Authority, told The National.
Rough sea conditions and winds with speeds up to 30kph were recorded at Puri beach in Odisha on Wednesday.
As many as five coastal districts in the state have been put on high alert. Authorities have sent nearly two dozen National Disaster Response Force teams for relief work.
Neighbouring West Bengal is also bracing for heavy rainfall.