Another day of misery wrought by rain, floods (Roundup)

September 23rd, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) Destroyed crops, snakebites, disease-stricken cattle and, most of all, hundreds of thousands of people flushed out of their homes - stories of the misery inflicted by torrential rains and overflowing rivers across India continued to replay themselves Tuesday.It was another day in the grip of floods for residents of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. Even in capital New Delhi, the Yamuna river was flowing above the danger mark. The gates of the Gobind Sagar reservoir of the Bhakra-Nangal dam on the Himachal Pradesh-Punjab border were opened for the first time in 10 years to release excess water.

In India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, with 14 more people dying in rain-related incidents and over 2.5 million affected, the army was called out to assist the civil authorities for rescue and relief operations.

The death toll this monsoon season has taken over 1,100 lives in the state, officials say.

“Fourteen more deaths have been reported from certain areas since last evening, taking the toll to 1,102,” state relief commissioner G.K. Tandon told IANS Tuesday. Twenty three of the state’s 71 districts have been hit by floods so far.

“Excess water flow from the upper reaches of Ghaghra and Sarda rivers coming from Nepal are likely to worsen the situation in Lakhimpur-Kheri, Gonda and Barabanki over the next 48 hours (to Thursday),” Tandon added.

Floodwaters have also entered the Dudhwa National Park, northern India’s second largest tiger reserve.

“Parts of the forest area have got cut off on account of the flood waters, but we are maintaining a constant vigil to prevent any danger to wildlife,” park director Uma Shankar Singh told IANS.

In Orissa, weeklong floods in the Mahanadi river have proved devastating. At least 29 people have died in rain-related incidents and four million people have been affected - of whom around 500,000 people are marooned.

What’s more, over 400,000 hectares of paddy crop have been destroyed by the floods, which is bad news as over 70 percent of the population there is dependant on agriculture for a living.

“I was planning to repay a loan of Rs.20,000 that I had taken from the local bank but now every thing is lost,” Sukru Bhoi, a farmer in western Orissa’s Boudh district, told IANS.

Western and coastal Orissa are the worst affected. While people struggle for food and shelter, they are also battling snakes.

“A large number of snakes are swimming in the waters; some are alive and some are dead,” said Debendranath Mahali, a resident of Pundilo in the worst hit district of Kendrapada.

Relief and rescue officials are yet to reach some villages because of heavy currents that make it difficult for boats to ply, officials admitted.

The Gobind Sagar reservoir was filled to capacity after incessant rainfall in Himachal Pradesh in the last four days led to more water flowing into the Sutlej river. As a result the gates of the 225-metre high Bhakra Dam were opened to release water for the first time in a decade.

Though there were no immediate reports of flooding in the downstream areas, villagers in some areas near Anandpur Sahib town in Ropar district complained that water had entered their fields and homes.

In Bihar, where floods triggered by the Kosi river waters have claimed over 50 lives and destroyed fertile land, people are now worrying about their cattle. The threat of foot and mouth disease looms large over the animals even as the waters continue to recede.

The International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW)-Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) did not rule out chances of outbreak of foot and mouth disease among cattles in the flood affected areas.

“Cattle are exposed to dangerous conditions with the presence of carcasses all around. This could lead to the spread communicable diseases,” IFAW-WTI director N.V.K. Ashraf said.

Over 3.24 million people have been affected in Bihar. It is estimated that over a million cattle have been affected in the worst-hit districts of Madhepura, Supaul, Saharsa, Araria and Purnia.

The heavy rains have not even spared the national capital. With Haryana releasing water from swollen reservoirs upstream, the Yamuna river flowed above the danger mark in Delhi. People in some areas have been asked to evacuate.

“People have been asked to evacuate low-lying areas along the riverbank like Nigambodh ghat, Sonia Vihar, Batla House and Usmanpur. Proper arrangements have been made to temporarily settle them in tents,” an official of Delhi’s flood control department told IANS.

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