People in flood-hit Orissa forced to live in open (Lead)

June 20th, 2008 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Balasore/Bhubaneswar, June 20 (IANS) Thousands of people, including women and children, have been forced to live on roof-tops, trees and the national highway, days after devastating floods triggered by heavy rains have rendered them homeless in Orissa. More than 15,000 people have taken shelter on the national highway No. 60 in Balasore district, officials said here Friday.

The district is one of the worst flood-hit areas where nearly 800,000 people have been rendered homeless.

“Many of the people on the national highway are living in the open because the administration has not provided them any relief,” senior Congress leader Jayanarayan Mohanty told IANS.

“I travelled to at least 100 villages in boats and saw people in many places living in the open, like on trees and roof-tops,” he said.

“Anywhere you go in Bhograi block (one of worst hit areas of Balasore district), one can see four to five feet high water,” he added.

About one million people of northern Orissa have been hit by the floods as rivers have breached their banks following five days of incessant rains. Floodwaters submerged thousands of acres of land, disrupted electricity supply and affected roads and train services.

But days after the disaster, people are still lamenting lack of government help.

“I have not received any government relief yet,” said 50-year-old Pranakrishna Pradhan of Rasulpur village.

Pradhan has taken shelter in a school with 250 others, among them women and children.

He said houses of more than 35 families of his village were washed away in the floods Wednesday and since then they are struggling to get a good sleep.

“We have provided them food and other relief material, but no government relief has reached them yet,” said village council chief Bhuban Mohan Jena, who claimed to have visited on a boat dozens of marooned villages.

Sibaprasad Mohanty, a resident of Srirampur village, said he and some 2,000 other villagers have taken shelter on the national highway after their homes were washed away.

The state earned a major respite as there has been a let-up in the rains for 24 hours and the floodwater is receding, officials said.

“The water levels in the three major rivers Subarnarekha, Budhabalanga and Baitarani that triggered floods in north Orissa have come down Friday, but they are still flowing over danger level,” Durgesh Nandini Sahu, officer on special duty in the state revenue control room, told IANS.

“Water has started receding but the main problem we are still facing is the damage to roads,” said Kulamani Mishra, a revenue official engaged in relief operation in Balasore district.

An Indian Air Force helicopter air-dropped relief material to people Thursday while more supplies will be air-dropped Friday, he told IANS.

“Today (Friday) we hope that relief reaches all the people who are stranded on rooftops, in schools and other buildings,” he said.

Hundreds of people were rescued Thursday and Friday from the marooned villages by rescuers from the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force, the police and the fire service.

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