Orissa flood toll 29; Uttar Pradesh, Delhi face Yamuna fury (Roundup)

September 22nd, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar/Lucknow/New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) More than 770,000 people Monday continued to face the fury of floods as the Mahanadi in Orissa and the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh were in spate affecting more areas including the national capital. Thousands of flood victims in Orissa continued to struggle for food and drinking water Monday as the overflowing Mahanadi river and its tributaries kept 570,000 people marooned. The toll in the Orissa floods rose to 29, Revenue Secretary G.V. Venugopala Sarma said Monday evening in Bhubaneswar.

In Uttar Pradesh, torrential rains led to the swelling of several rivers, inundating fresh areas and affecting over 200,000 people. Mathura, Agra and other cities along the Yamuna geared up to face floods as the water level in the river crossed the danger mark in New Delhi upstream.

“As a national body we have provided enough manpower and other facilities to Bihar, Orissa and other affected states as per their requirement,” H.S. Brahma, additional secretary of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), told IANS in New Delhi.

“The situation in Bihar is somewhat troublesome but I think it is under control elsewhere. We want the local (state) governments to be proactive and implement the flood guidelines notified by us,” he added.

Orissa Revenue Secretary Sarma told IANS: “At least 570,000 people are marooned after more than 40 fresh breaches in different river embankments in various parts of the state.”

He said there were a total of 61 embankment breaches. “Relief and rescue workers are facing trouble to reach many of these villages because water has huge current and they are not able to move on boats,” he said. “It is a severe flood.”

“Air dropping is the only option and we are trying to reach them. The state government is dropping relief packets with the help of three helicopters.”

Survivors took shelter on riverbanks, high-rise buildings, schools and cyclone shelters as their houses and other belongings were destroyed by the floodwaters.

“We have not received any relief yet,” said Raghunath Sahu, a flood victim at Banki town in the costal district of Cuttack. The floodwaters submerged hundreds of acres of farmland and houses in various districts four days ago.

Like Sahu, thousands of other victims remained stranded in different places, complaining that relief has not reached them.

“The state government dropped relief and water packets in some areas but that is inadequate,” said an NGO volunteer engaged in relief and rescue operations in the worst hit district of Kendrapada.

The state government said it evacuated about 300,000 people in the past four days and more people are being evacuated as the floodwaters enter fresh areas.

Triggered by heavy rain in Orissa and the upper catchment of the Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh last week, the floods have hit 17 of 30 districts in Orissa. The problem was compounded manifold after a huge quantity of water entered the Hirakud reservoir forcing the authorities to open some 40 of its 64 sluice gates.

The release of water from the dam has caused devastation in the coastal districts of Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada. Officials said the problem may worsen in these districts in the next two-three days.

In eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Saryu and Ghagra rivers were in spate inundating several villages in Faizabad, Bahraich and Barabanki districts, officials said.

“In Bahraich, over 30 villages with a total population of over 200,000 have been affected by the Ghagra river, which is flowing above the danger mark,” additional district magistrate R. Prasad told IANS.

“According to the latest record, Ghagra was flowing 486 mm above the danger mark. We have already started evacuation in the worst affected villages, including Ghauri, Jalimnagar and Manjhara,” he added.

The Saryu river was flowing 23 cm above the danger mark in Faizabad.

“With Saryu flowing above the danger mark, flood threat looms large over half-a-dozen villages with a total population of 3,000,” Faizabad additional district magistrate Vijay Bahadur told IANS.

According to the officials, Ghagra in Barabanki was rising at a rate of 8 cm an hour.

Expecting the Yamuna to breach the danger mark at Agra Tuesday night, district authorities Monday sounded a flood alert and began moving people from low lying areas to safer places.

In Mathura the water level was expected to peak Tuesday.

Divisional Commissioner Avinash Kumar Srivastav told mediapersons that both Agra and Mathura district administrations were prepared to meet any eventuality.

The rising waters of the Yamuna also affected the national capital. Several people, mainly from slum clusters, along the riverbank were evacuated Monday as the river crossed the danger mark and authorities declared “high alert”.

The water level rose to 205.28 metres, compared to the danger mark of 204.83 metres, as the Haryana government was forced to release nearly 50,000 cusecs of water from swollen reservoirs upstream Sunday night.

“Control rooms have been set up at various strategic places to keep round-the-clock tab of water flow which has been steadily increasing due to constant rains in northern states,” the official said.

This was for the first time in the last 10 years that such a huge quantity of water, 390,000 cusecs, has been released from the Tajewala barrage by the neighbouring state that is witnessing heavy rainfall.

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