Army rescues hundreds as Punjab flood situation grim

August 17th, 2008 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  


Chandigarh, Aug 17 (IANS) The flood situation in four affected districts of Punjab Sunday continued to be grim with the army rescuing hundreds of marooned villagers, a minister said. Over 150 villages in the severely affected districts of Moga, Ferozepur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar Sunday continued to be under five to 12 feet of water following breaches along the embankments of the Sutlej river.

One person, Bohan Singh, died due to drowning in a village in Zira area of Moga district.

Thousands of acres of fertile land with sown paddy crop has also been inundated in these districts by the flood waters. Livestock was also washed away in the flooding.

The sudden flooding caught authorities in Punjab napping.

Punjab Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon blamed the breaches in the river embankment to the weakening caused by the growing population of rats that live in the embankment.

The biggest breach of 150 feet occurred at Akbar Khan village in Ferozepur district. Two other breaches took place in Bundala in Kapurthala district and Khanna village in Jalandhar district, state government officials said.

This is the worst flooding in Punjab, which contributes over 50 per cent of foodgrain to the national pool, since 1988.

The emergency gates of the Bhakra dam, located in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, 125 km from here, were opened for some time Saturday to release excess water after its Gobind Sagar reservoir was almost full till the brim following continuous rainfall in the catchment areas in Himachal Pradesh.

“The BBMB (Bhakra Beas Management Board) authorities released excess water from the Bhakra dam yesterday (Saturday) which led to the breach in the embankment downstream in the Sutlej river,” Sekhon said.

Army units based at Jalandhar, Ferozepur and Kapurthala were immediately pressed into service Saturday onwards after civil authorities in affected areas sought their help. An Army spokesman said that several motorized boats were pressed into service to rescue people.

Hundreds of villagers in the affected districts were still waiting for help while being perched on rooftops of submerged houses and on train tracks.

“We have been stranded on rooftops for the last 48 hours after water from the river caused flooding. There has been no help from the state government. We are without food, water and medicines,” Jaswinder Singh of Akbar Khan village said.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Saturday did an aerial survey of flooded areas of Ferozepur district.

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