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Helen kills 2

Hyderabad, Nov. 22: Two persons were killed as Cyclone Helen hit the Machilipatnam port town in Krishna district this afternoon and weakened as it moved towards the Andaman islands, reports our special correspondent.

Hundreds of villages and towns dotting six coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh are reeling from darkness as winds with speed of nearly 100kmph and heavy rains uprooted power lines and trees that fell on electricity poles.

Krishna district collector Raghunandan Rao had declared a holiday for all educational institutions in the coastal areas.

Disaster management secretary C. Parthasarathi said the cyclone hit Machilipatnam around 1pm, bringing heavy rain and stormy winds at 90-100kmph. He said West Godavari district is the worst hit with standing crops of paddy, coconut and bananas damaged across over one lakh acres. Heavy rains are pounding the East Godavari, West Godavari and Srikakulam districts since yesterday evening.

The state administration, sources said, had been caught unawares as Helen turned towards East and West Godavari after crossing Machilipatnam instead of the anticipated Krishna and Prakasam districts. Farmers in these coastal districts are yet to recover from the blow of last month’s Cyclone Phailin. Andhra has a coastline of nearly 970km.

Areas like Visakhapatnam, Narsapur, Amalapuram, Uppada, Kothapalli, K. Gangavaram, Kakinada and Srikakulam have been badly hit too. An uprooted tree and a falling power pole killed two persons respectively in Krishna district.

Parthasarathi said the restoration of power lines and roads has begun but the process was getting delayed because of the pounding rain. The weather office has predicted continuous shower for the next 48 hours for the coastal districts.

In all six IAS officers were deputed to oversee relief operations in all the six coastal districts affected by the cyclone.

Parthasarathi said the whereabouts of two of the three fishing boats that had ventured into sea from Prakasham have been traced by the coast guard. “We are waiting with baited breath to learn about the fate of the 20 plus fishermen,” he said.

The Indian Coast Guard has dispatched its ship Avantibai to rescue 20 fishermen from East Godavari district trapped in the rough sea. A Chetak helicopter of the navy is also being pressed into service for the rescue operation. “Our Chetak embarked Vishwast for strategic launch. We also requested for twin-engine helicopter launch," the navy told the general administrative department.

Parthasarathi said so far 16,290 persons from low lying areas of Krishna district had been evacuated to 73 relief centres. “The stormy winds of 80-100km as the cyclone diluted in Godavari districts had extensively damaged the roads, electric poles and also standing crops of paddy, coconut and banana in over one lakh acres.

The weather office has predicted continuous rain for the next 48 hours in all the six north coastal districts. There has been heavy road damages, electric poles falls and treee falls in the East and West godavari districts disrupting road connectivity ' he said.

TThe South Central Railway has cancelled all north-bound trains towards Odisha and Calcutta.Some trains from Chennai and Vijayawada and Bhubaneswar had been stopped when Helen was crossing the coast, said an SCR spokesperson. “We will review the track situation after inspection and then decide on the running of the trains,” he Hundreds of fishing boats were damaged in East and West Godavari districts. The high-speed wind accompanied by rains had dealt another blow to farmers who are still recovering from the heavy damage caused by last month's Cyclone Phailin. Andhra Pradesh has nearly 970km long coastline and the nine districts face cyclone threats every year, especially between September and November.