By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR, India, Nov 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A severe cyclone weakened before it made landfall on India's east coast on Thursday, and an official said it no longer posed a serious threat to thousands of people in low-lying areas.
Forecasts that cyclone Lehar - the third powerful storm to hit Andhra Pradesh state in seven weeks - would bring gale-force winds, heavy rain and storm surges, prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of villagers, suspend fishing and put disaster response teams on standby.
C. Parthasarathy, commissioner of the state disaster management department, said Lehar had weakened into a depression bringing moderate rain as it hit the city of Machilipatnam.
"There have been no reports of any deaths or damages to property so far. The wind speed was only 50 kph (30 mph)," Parthasarathy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
More than 45,000 people moved to cyclone shelters would go home on Friday, he added.
India's cyclone season generally lasts from April to December with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, mass evacuations and widespread crop and property damage.
Officials were widely praised for a mass evacuation that saved thousands of lives last month when Cyclone Phailin struck, even though at least 60 people were killed and 12 million people lost their homes or livelihoods.
(Writing by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Robert Birsel)