Millions across India battle crippling floods (Roundup)

June 18th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) Millions of people across five Indian states were Wednesday battling to cope with crippling floods that submerged their houses and fields and threw road and rail services out of gear in some areas. The picture everywhere was the same: people perched precariously on the rooftops of their huts, vast open fields under a sheet of water, roads and embankments being washed away by the swirling waters and trains stranded at railway stations.

The authorities in the affected states were working round the clock to rescue the marooned and provide relief to those rendered homeless - with the Indian Army being called out in West Bengal to assist in the effort and asked to remain on the standby in other states.

Some 1.6 million people have been affected in West Bengal, with five people having died. Train services have been paralysed due to the ravaging waters.

In Orissa, flash floods triggered by heavy rains in the past four days have hit about half a million people in four northern districts, submerged thousands of acres of land, snapped electricity supply and disrupted road and train services.

In Jharkhand, torrential rain for the last three days has badly affected life in many parts of the state. Two people have died in house collapses and the state government Wednesday asked the army to remain on alert.

In Assam, thousands of people were still in relief camps even though the floodwaters were receding. The authorities also sounded a health alert to prevent outbreak of any waterborne diseases.

In Uttar Pradesh, a flood alert was sounded Wednesday in over 30 districts of including Lakhimpur Kheri, Faizabad, Gonda and Bahraich, following incessant rains.

“About 1.6 million people have been affected due to the floods,” West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta told newspersons in Kolkata after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

He said 350 tonnes of rice and 25,000 tarpaulin sheets have been sent to the affected areas, while Rs.2.5 billion were sanctioned for emergency relief.

A defence spokesman said one team each from 3 Madras Regiment and 6 Engineers Regiment were being sent to assist the district administration in relief and rescue operations in the severely affected Sabong, Narayangarh and Pingla areas of West Midnapore district.

Indian Air Force speedboats have been deployed to rescue marooned people in Belda, the spokesman said.

Train services on the South Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Kharagpur section were badly hit due to heavy rainfall in Kharagpur in West Midnapore district and Contai in East Midnapore district.

Eighteen long-distance trains were cancelled, while several trains have been stranded at various stations due to water logging of the tracks.

The situation is likely to worsen in Orissa with rains continuing in the region and in the upper catchments areas, an official said.

“The total number of people affected would be about half a million,” B. Baral, Orissa’s additional commissioner (relief), told IANS.

All rivers in the Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Bhadrak districts are in spate due to heavy rains caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal and many of them are flowing above the danger level, said Durgesh Nandini Sahu, officer on special duty at the revenue control room.

Road and railway services were disrupted in many of the flood hit areas, with most of the trains running through the region being terminated due to water logging on the tracks.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda told reporters in the capital Ranchi: “We have asked the army to be on alert so that they can help whenever required.”

Many parts of Ranchi and Jamshedpur have been flooded. House collapses caused by torrential rain have claimed two lives, one in Ranchi Tuesday and the other in Jamshedpur Wednesday.

According to the Met office, Jharkhand has received over 300 mm of rain in the past three days.

An alert has been sounded in the steel city of Jamshedpur following the flooding of many localities and a threat posed by overflowing dams. The Suvarnarekha river is overflowing. Over 700 people have been shifted to safer places in the city.

The water from the overflowing Khakhai river has entered over 300 houses in Jugsalai, Bagbera, Shastrinagar, Azadnagar and Daiguttu areas of Jamshedpur district.

The incessant rains have affected air and railway services and the national highway has been damaged at many places.

In Guwahati, Assam Revenue, Relief And Rehabilitation Minister Bhumidhar Barman said: “The flood situation has improved considerably with no overnight rains.

“People are heading back to their homes, but thousands of them are still in makeshift shelters as their homes are filled with mud and slush,” Barman told IANS.

A Central Water Commission bulletin Wednesday said the main Brahmaputra river and its tributaries were still above the danger mark in some places although the trend was receding.

The floods that began over the weekend left eight dead and displaced more than 400,000 people in about 350 villages in the two districts of Lakhimpur and Sonitpur.

“Teams of doctors and paramedics are on full alert and visiting flood-hit areas, although there are no reports of any outbreak of waterborne diseases,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Road communications between Lakhimpur and rest of Assam continued to be snapped with floodwaters overtopping highways and breaching culverts.

“We have set up more than 100 camps and providing relief materials and medicines to the people,” Barman said.

The water level in various rivers in Uttar Pradesh, including the Ghagra, the Sharda, the Saryu and the Gomti, has risen following weeklong rains, an official said.

Pinky Jowel, district magistrate Lakhimpur Kheri, told IANS: “Although at present the Sharda river is flowing below the danger mark, there is a possibility the water level in the river may rise and cause floods.”

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