Rains claim 78 lives, but allay drought fears in Maharashtra (Lead)

August 11th, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad/Mumbai, Aug 11 (IANS) Heavy rains since last week have claimed 78 lives and wreaked havoc in several parts of the country, especially Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, but they brought cheer to farmers in Maharashtra by ending the drought-like situation the state was facing. In Andhra Pradesh, heavy monsoon rains since Tuesday have triggered flash floods in the state capital and nine other districts. The death toll rose to 74 Monday, with the recovery of the body of one of at least 35 people who were washed away with their truck in floodwaters.

The police said the body was fished out from an overflowing rivulet in Guntur district. While 10 people were rescued immediately after the truck got washed away Sunday, 10 bodies were found later. Search was still continuing for the other missing persons.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy visited the accident site, about 300 km from here, and also met the survivors who were admitted to a hospital. Reddy also conducted an aerial survey of West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur districts, where heavy rains and flash floods had left a trail of destruction.

K. Ratna Prabha, commissioner of disaster management, said 61 people have been killed since Friday. She told reporters that 40,000 people had taken shelter in relief camps set up in seven districts.

Officials said the rains and breach in over 800 water tanks had damaged over 3,000 houses and crops in over 170,000 hectares of land. In West Godavari district alone, crops in over 70,000 acres of land had been damaged.

Transport services were paralysed in some areas as 700 km of roads were damaged by rains. All schools in Hyderabad, Warangal and other affected towns and villages remained closed Monday.

In Orissa, at least four people have been killed while six others are reported missing due to flash floods caused by heavy rain since Thursday. The worst affected were the districts of Sambalpur, Rayagada, Ganjam, Gajapati, Kalahandi and Bolangir, officials said.

Five people, including two children, have been missing since Sunday evening, when the jeep they were travelling in was swept away by a swollen river near Jamaipali in Bolangir district. Sixteen of the 21 people in the jeep were rescued, officials said.

While three people drowned in Sambalpur Friday, a woman drowned Thursday and one man was reported missing since Friday in Rayagada district.

Torrential rains led to traffic snarls and delay in several flights to and from Mumbai, with some being diverted to Ahmedabad Monday. However, farmers in Maharashtra welcomed the downpour, which wiped away fears of a drought.

Officials said Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Sawantwadi districts have received heavy rainfall since Saturday.

According to the meteorological department, south Mumbai received 67.4 mm of rainfall while suburban Mumbai got 47.7 mm since Sunday. Till Monday morning, the excess rainfall recorded in these two areas since June 1 was 339.4 mm and 511.8 mm respectively.

However, a railway spokesperson said train services in the region had not been disrupted.

Official sources said the heavy rainfall had eased the water deficit in the Koyna Dam, where the levels had plummetted to just 20 percent of its capacity last week, while several big and small rivers across the state were either full or in flood.

Although there has been no official announcement from the state energy department so far, it is expected that the power situation is likely to ease soon, according to an official.

He said there might be some relief in power cuts - up to 14 hours a day in some areas - over the next few days, but declined to specify the time-period.

The weather forecast till Wednesday evening said unabated heavy to very heavy rains, accompanied by strong winds of speeds between 50 to 70 kmph, could be expected.

Ports authorities said cautionary signal number three (LC-III) has been hoisted at all ports from Dahanu to Goa. In view of the very rough Arabian Sea, fishermen have been warned against venturing out deeper into the sea.

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