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Helen looms on Andhra

Hyderabad, Nov. 21: Andhra Pradesh today braced for Helen, a severe cyclonic storm that is expected to hit the coast tomorrow afternoon with wind speeds up to 120kmph.

Weather officials said the cyclone would be milder than Phailin, which hit Odisha and Andhra last month at wind speeds up to 220kmph. Helen will cross the Andhra coast between Nellore and Machilipatnam around afternoon, they added.

The system, currently located 360km east off Ongole, is expected to bring heavy to very heavy rain to coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and north Tamil Nadu. Areas in south Odisha, bordering Andhra, could also receive showers, the officials said.

Trains travelling to and from Bengal could be affected as the cyclone could hit stretches of the route in Vijayawada, Guntur and Guntakal.

Railway officials said track monitoring had been stepped up and wagons with sand and boulders kept ready to plug breaches and cave-ins.

The cyclone could whip up sea waves as high as 1.5 metres and flood low-lying areas, officials said. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea.

Some coastal towns in Andhra received rain this morning, with wind speeds of 55-65kmph.

Today, the district authorities of East Godavari, Nellore, Machilipatnam and Prakasam — areas expected to fall in the path of the cyclone — were making arrangements to evacuate thousands to relief camps.

The National Disaster Management Authority has rushed six teams to the region. A control room to monitor the situation has been opened at the state secretariat in Hyderabad.