Thousands of people prepared to move to higher ground Wednesday as a cyclone with wind speeds of up to 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour moved toward India's southern coast, officials said. Authorities urged fishermen to stay ashore ahead of Cyclone Baaz's expected arrival in Andhra Pradesh state on Thursday, said G. Sudhakara Rao, director of the Meteorological Center.
Heavy rains were likely to hit at least six districts of Andhra Pradesh, Rao said. "People living in low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer places. Officials have been asked to arrange for their evacuation," said D.C. Roshaiah, a top state disaster management official.
With irrigation reservoirs already full from monsoon rains, further flooding could breach some of them, he said. As of Wednesday afternoon, the storm was located about 375 kilometers (235 miles) southeast of Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, in the Bay of Bengal, Rao said.
Cyclones often hit Andhra Pradesh in October and November. Last month, heavy rains and floods washed away a railroad bridge, causing a train to fall into a stream in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh and killing at least 114 people. In 1999, a storm killed more than 10,000 people in neighboring Orissa state, reports the AP. I.L.