Floodwaters receding but human tragedy continues (Roundup)

June 20th, 2008 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Swirling floodwaters that have wreaked havoc across much of eastern India have begun receding but the human tragedy continues with thousands of people remaining marooned and without access to food and water. Nineteen people have so far perished in the floods in West Bengal alone, where nearly 200,000 people have been rendered homeless.

The situation is equally grim in neighbouring Orissa, where thousands of people continued to suffer without food and shelter in the northern parts of the state, even as the water level in rivers declined and no rainfall was reported in the 24 hours to Friday evening.

“Nineteen people - fourteen from West and five from East Midnapore - died in the floods till Friday evening. Two people from East Midnapore are missing,” West Bengal Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS in Kolkata.

Concerned over the flood situation, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee arrived in Kolkaghat in East Midnapore and held a high-level meeting with district officials to review the situation.

Later, the chief minister said 15 blocks in East Midnapore including Patashpur, Bhagabanpur-I, Bhagabanpur-II and Egra and West Midnapore’s Sabong, Pingla and Narayangarh were still inundated rendering thousands homeless.

West Midnapore District Magistrate N.S. Nigam said Keleghai and Subarnarekha rivers were still flowing above the danger mark, though the water levels in both rivers have started to recede.

“Water has started receding from the flood-prone areas. If there are no more rains, then the situation may improve,” Nigam added.

He said 200,000 people have been rescued and sheltered in 822 relief camps in the district.

Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters have dropped 11 tonnes of rice at Patashpur in East Midnapore and Narayangarh, Sabang and Belda of West Midnapore till Friday noon, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said a total of Rs.170 million has been sanctioned as relief by the state government so far.

South Eastern railway officials said long distance trains from Kharagpur to Bhadrak in Orissa will take 10 days to resume.

“The Kharagpur to Bhadrak train line is damaged due to flood to an extent that it will take another 10 days to resume services. However, four long-distance trains — from West Bengal to Puri, Chennai, Bangalore and Secunderabad — will run via diverted routes,” a senior railway official said.

In Orissa, the water level in the three major rivers - Subarnarekha, Budhabalanga and Baitarani - that triggered floods in north Orissa came down Friday, “but they are still flowing above danger level,” Durgesh Nandini Sahu, officer on special duty in the revenue control room in capital Bhubaneswar, told IANS.

The floods have affected about one million people of northern Orissa, submerging thousands of acres of land, disrupting electricity supplies and affecting road and train services.

Balasore is one of the worst hit districts with 800,000 people affected and hundreds of villages still inaccessible.

“Water has started receding but the main problem we are still facing is the damage to roads,” said Kulamani Mishra, a revenue official engaged in relief operation in Balasore district.

An IAF helicopter air-dropped relief material to the people Thursday and Friday.

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