It also warned of "high to phenomenal" sea conditions.
"The focus is on evacuation now. People are advised to keep important documents and valuables ready and be prepared to move to shelters at short notice," said Marri Sashidhar Reddy, an official at the National Disaster Management Authority.
Some people had already evacuated their homes and authorities were preparing helicopters and boats for relief work, he addedAn official source at Reliance Industries, which operates India's biggest gas field off the Andhra Pradesh coast, said the company had halted crude oil output in the Bay of Bengal. The impact of the weather system was also felt in Tamil Nadu state -- just south of Andhra Pradesh -- with heavy rains and gale-force winds on Wednesday.
The cyclone, packing sustained winds of 65 kilometers (40 miles) an hour, was about 650 kilometers east of Chennai at 5:30 a.m. local time, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. Waves were 3.7 meters (12 feet) high near the storm's eye, where winds were gusting to 83 kilometers per hour. Farmers in India, the world's second-biggest producers of rice and wheat, rely on the rainy season to water their crops as about 60 percent of arable land isn't irrigated. Winter- harvested crops, including rice, corn, lentils, cotton and soybeans, are planted after the monsoon begins.
Rains this year may be 98 percent of the 50-year average, the Meteorological Department said April 23. Showers may reach the southern Kerala coast May 30, the weather bureau said May 14. Tropical cyclone Laila strengthened as it crossed the Bay of Bengal toward India's east coast and is forecast to reach hurricane strength before making landfall in Andhra Pradesh, a major rice-growing area, later today.
The cyclone, with sustained winds of 102 kilometers (63 miles) per hour, was about 220 kilometers east of Chennai at 11:30 p.m. local time, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. Waves were 4.6 meters (15 feet) high near the storm's eye, where winds were gusting to 130 kph.
The cyclone was moving west-northwest at 20 kph and its winds are forecast to strengthen to 139 kph by late tonight, with gusts to as high as 167 kph. The storm is expected to make landfall south of the city of Vijayawada late today or early tomorrow
ndia is regularly buffeted by cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal between April and November, bringing destruction and flooding to coastal communities. Tropical Cyclone Aila left 169 people dead and affected more than 7.7 million people in India and Bangladesh last May.
The U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center also issued an alert that a tropical cyclone may form in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia. The storm is moving west-northwest toward the south coast of Yemen, with winds speeds of 46 to 56 kph, the center said.
Source--Editor: James Poole