Sep 20, 2008

India - Lakhs hit by Orissa floods,22 breaches in Mahanadi

Bhubaneswar (PTI): Lakhs of people were marooned on Saturday as Orissa braced up to a grim flood situation as major rivers, including Mahanadi, caused at least 22 breaches as the army stood by to assist in rescue and relief operation.

Surging waters in the swollen Mahanadi caused 22 breaches in embankments in the complex river system in the deltaic plains as more water was gushing into the Hirakud reservoir in western Orissa, official sources said.

As many as 46 of the 64 sluices of the Hirakud dam had been opened to discharge over 6.93 lakh cusecs as the districts of Angul, Kendrapara, Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur faced the deluge.

Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Manmohan Samal said that the breaches on the embankments of the Mahanadi and its branches in the delta have affected over 10 lakh people in 15 districts.

While three breaches had occurred on the Mahanadi embankment, the flood waters had broken through the embankments of several of the river's branches. Five breaches had occurred in the Chitrotpala river followed by two each in Devi and Luna and one each in Bhargabi, Kandala, Kathajodi, Kushabhadra, Kanei and Biluakhai.

Water resources department engineers were maintaining constant vigil on the 'Daleighai' embankment on the Devi river in Jagatsinghpur district.

This embankment, which had breached in 1955 and 1982, was the last protective barrier for a thickly populated area in the district.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the flood situation at a meeting, is expected to make an aerial survey of the flood hit areas.

Army asked to standby

Alarmed over the situation, the state government had asked the army to stand by for relief and rescue operation besides urging Chhattisgarh to stop releasing water from the Ravishankar Barrage to prevent a complete deluge.

Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force have been provided by the centre for rescue and relief operation.

Besides the Mahanadi, the state's biggest river, other major rivers like Baitarani, Brahmani, Rushikulya and Vamsadhara were also in spate.

Around 40,000 people in seven districts have been evacuated to safer places as 14 out of the 30 districts in the state had been hit.

Thousands of people have left their homes to take shelter at safer places---flood and cyclone shelters, schools and colleges, roads and embankments--- in the coastal districts.

Sixty five free kitchens had been opened to provide them food, sources said.

Medical teams were kept ready and adequate medicines, halogen tablets and water pouches had been stored for distribution. If required, post-graduate medical college students would be pressed into service in the affected areas, they said.

The government has announced that relief would be provided for seven days in the flood-affected areas.