Thousands starve as flood situation in Orissa remains grim

June 19th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, June 19 (IANS) Thousands of people are going without food in Orissa’s flood-hit Balasore district as the swirling waters have made it impossible for the administration to reach the marooned villages, officials admitted Thursday. About one million people in north Orissa have been hit by the floods with rivers breaching their banks following five days of incessant rains. Balasore is one of the worst hit districts with 800,000 people affected and hundreds of villages still inaccessible.

“We could not manage to reach thousands of victims due to the disruption of road communications and the undercurrents in the water that make it difficult for boats to ply,” Kulamani Mishra, a relief official, said from Balasore.

“We moved more than 40,000 people to safe shelters - on the roads, high rise buildings and schools - and are providing them food through 80 free kitchens,” Mishra told IANS.

He added that 849 villages in the district were cut off for the last two days. “There have been at least three breaches in the national highway 60 that goes through the region and we are not able to use the road to send relief.”

About 200 boats had been deployed, including 150 “country boats” which were unable to carry relief because of the currents.

Though the administration was trying to deal with the situation by dropping food packets, the situation was grim.

The flash floods triggered by heavy rains have led to five major rivers, including the Subarnarekha and Mahanadi, and all their tributaries overflowing in five districts.

The disaster has reportedly killed at least seven people although officials confirm only two deaths. It has submerged thousands of acres of land, snapped electricity supply and disrupted road and train services in most of the affected areas.

“We have deployed a large number of boats, and hundreds of personnel of the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service in the affected areas to carry out relief and rescue operations,” Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal said.

The next few day could see the situation worsen with rains continuing in the region and in the upper catchments areas.

Heavy to very heavy rainfall likely to occur at a few places with extremely heavy falls (more than 25cm) at isolated places over north Orissa, the Bhubaneswar meteorological office said in a release.

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