Orissa seeks Rs.15 bn as flood situation worsens (Lead)

September 20th, 2008 - 9:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Sep 20 (IANS) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to the central government asking for an initial package of Rs.15 billion as floods in the state have affected about two million people, submerged hundreds of villages and claimed 16 lives, an official said Saturday.The flood situation has worsened leading to thousands more being evacuated by Saturday morning and floodwaters had now entered many more areas.

Patnaik has asked the central government to consider the flood a national calamity, the official said.

The preliminary estimate of loss due to the floods is Rs.25 billion, he added.

State Revenue Secretary G.B. Sarma told IANS that the floods have affected around two million people in 17 districts. He said that the situation is grim and the next 3-4 days are crucial.

He said air-dropping of relief material by two Indian Air Force helicopters started from Saturday and the state government has sought four more helicopters to step up the air-dropping operations.

The helicopters were pressed into service Friday for rescuing people in vulnerable areas Bolangir and Bouth districts while they began dropping relief in coastal districts Saturday.

Official sources said that the death toll has gone up to 16 and there are reports of 28 breaches in river embankments.

During the last two days, 180,000 people have been evacuated and 2,962 villages have been affected while 191 villages are marooned, official sources said.

Mahanadi river and its tributaries are flowing above the danger level in several places in western and coastal districts, breaching embankments and causing devastation, an official said.

“According to reports received here, more than 26,000 people have been evacuated in the coastal district of Kendrapada as floodwaters breached embankments in five-six places,” said the officer on special duty in the state flood control room.

But officials said the exact figure of those evacuated is unclear, though it could be more than 50,000.

Officials also warned that the situation may worsen in the coming days when water released from the state’s largest reservoir Hirakud to prevent it from overflowing reaches more coastal districts. People living in low-lying areas have been told to move to safer places.

“Some people have been evacuated. But a large number of people are moving out on their own to safer places, wading through knee-deep water with their belongings,” said Ranjan Mohanty, a social activist camping in one of the flood-hit regions.

Although there has been no fresh rainfall in the past two days, water released from the Hirakud reservoir Thursday and Friday inundated many low-lying areas, officials said.

Due to heavy rains in the upper catchment areas, including in Chhattisgarh, a huge quantity of water was entering the Hirakud reservoir.

The maximum capacity of the dam is 630 feet and the water level has already crossed 629 feet, an official of the state flood control room said. Authorities have opened at least 46 gates of the dam, including six on Saturday.

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 districts were closed Friday and Saturday.

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