Cyclone Helen, which hit the Andhra Pradesh coast on Friday afternoon, weakened to a ''deep depression'' today, leaving two people dead after it made landfall at southern areas of Machilipatnam in Krishna district.
The two people were killed in separate rain-related incidents in Krishna district; and about 20,000 people were evacuated to safer places, state disaster management commissioner C Parthasarathi told reporters in the state capital of Hyderabad.
Three boats carrying 20 fishermen were earlier reported missing, but two of these boats are on their way back to the coast in East Godavari district and are safe. Efforts are on to ensure the safety of the third boat, he said.
The storm destroyed crops in 1.5 lakh hectares of land across Andhra. Paddy crop ready for harvest and coconut and banana crops suffered extensive damage in coastal districts, Parthasarathi said.
The West Godavari district is said to be the worst-hit in terms of crop damage, while coastal districts of Krishna, East Godavari and Srikakulam bore the brunt of heavy rains, though Cyclone Helen's impact was also felt as far as in Guntur and Visakhapatnam districts, he said.
The disaster management commissioner said that 10 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed for rescue operations.
As anticipated, the heavy rains and gales triggered by the cyclone uprooted a large number of trees and electric poles, adding to the damage.
National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman M Sasidhar Reddy, who reviewed the situation overnight, said the damage was mainly in Machilipatnam division in Krishna district, Amalapuram division in East Godavari district and Naraspuram division in West Godavari.
The highest rainfall of 7.3 cm was reported at Allavaram in East Godavari.
Noting that Cyclone preparedness had improved substantially this time, Reddy said about 20,000 people were evacuated to safer places.
Reddy said he had been seeking a change of norms to provide help to farmers in such a way that the stage of the crop at the time of damage is taken into consideration.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy reviewed the situation with top officials. He spoke to the collectors of coastal districts and directed the senior officials to evacuate people and provide essential items like food and medicines.