Orissa flood situation continues to be grim, fresh areas submerged

September 21st, 2008 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Sep 21 (IANS) With most of the rivers flowing above the danger mark, the flood situation in Orissa continues to be grim as fresh areas have been submerged, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The floods have affected over two million people in 17 of the state’s 30 districts and claimed 16 lives. “The waters in most of the rivers is flowing above the danger level,” Benudhar Das, a senior official of the state revenue and disaster management department, told IANS.

Although there has been no fresh rainfall for the past two days, water released from the Hirakud reservoir since Thursday inundated many low-lying areas.

Due to heavy rains in the upper catchment areas earlier this week, including in Chhattisgarh, a huge quantity of water was entering the Hirakud reservoir, forcing the authorities to release water by opening some 40 of its 64 sluice gates.

The maximum capacity of the dam is 630 feet and the water level is at 629 feet.

The coastal districts of Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada are the worst hit and are likely to face more floods in the next two days, officials said.

Schools in the affected districts were closed since Friday and the government said they will remain closed till Tuesday.

“Two lakh (200,000) people people have been evacuated so far,” Das said.

One hundred and ninety-one villages are marooned and the road network to several areas has been cut off. The evacuated people are taking shelter on embankments, rooftops, roads, schools and in high rise buildings. More people have joined them overnight, eyewitnesses said.

“More than 15,000 people have taken shelter on embankments in Balianta area located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar and more people are joining them as water from local rivers is entering into fresh ares following breaches,” Ranjan Mohanty, secretary of NGO Peoples’ Cultural Centre, told IANS.

The government says it is trying to drop relief material through boats and two Indian Air Force helicopters.

The victims, however, complain that no government official has been in touch with them since the flooding began.

“Nobody has come to us, although we are starving since the past two days. There is water everywhere and we cannot move,” local E-TV Oriya channel quoted a victim as saying.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Saturday wrote to the central government asking for an initial relief package of Rs.15 billion.

The state government said the preliminary estimate of loss due to the floods is Rs.25 billion and described the latest flood as one of the worst in over two decades, saying it should be declared a national calamity.

Revenue Secretary G.V. Venugopala Sarma told IANS that the next 3-4 days are crucial.

He said the state government has sought four more helicopters to step up the air-dropping operations. Sarma said that there are reports of 28 breaches in river embankments.

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