39 killed, 4.5 million affected in latest Orissa floods

Bhubaneswar, Sep 28 (IANS) More than four million people have been affected and 39 killed in the torrential rain and flash floods in Orissa in the last fortnight, the state government said Friday.

Though the floodwaters have started receding in the rivers passing through the state, the situation in the worst-hit northern districts including Balasore and Bhadrak has yet to improve.

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A fresh spell of rain Friday caused by a depression over the Bay of Bengal off the Vishakhapatnam coast in Andhra Pradesh led to panic among the flood victims in Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts.

Relief and rescue operations have been hampered due to flooding of roads in several parts of the state. A shortage of boats has added to the problem.

An estimated 4.5 million people were affected by the current floods, the fourth this year, that caused havoc in 12 of the state’s 30 districts including six coastal districts. The total loss from the floods has been pegged at Rs.11 billion, the state government said in a memorandum.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik met union Home Minister Shivraj Patil in New Delhi on Thursday and submitted the memorandum to him and urged the central government to immediately release financial assistance to provide succour to the people.

He also requested that a central team be sent to the state to assess the damage caused by the floods, State Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal told IANS.

The deaths of 39 people from the current spell of rain and floods has taken the toll to 79 since June this year.

The state has sought around Rs.24 billion financial assistance from the central government to provide relief and rehabilitation, Samal said.

On July 24, the state had submitted its first memorandum to the central government seeking around Rs.3 billion assistance, but no adequate financial assistance was provided to the state, Samal said.

He added that though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was aware of the situation and had promised to provide assistance, nothing had arrived so far.

Road communication between Orissa and West Bengal has been disrupted in the last two days due to heavy rain, with a portion of the National Highway (NH)-60 in Balasore washed away in the turbulent waters of the Budhabalanga and Jalaka rivers. Hundreds of heavy vehicles have been stranded on the highway.

Power supply has been disrupted in several parts of the state with electric transformers being submerged in the floodwaters.

“We have released Rs.2 crore (Rs.20 million) for purchasing relief materials for the latest floods,” Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Nikunja Kumar Sundaray told IANS.

“As the situation is still grim in Balasore and Bhadrak we have mobilised some power boats to expedite relief and rescue operations. We are running free kitchens to provide food to the victims,” he added.

With the depression in the Bay of Bengal crossing over to Orissa, the meteorological office Friday predicted more rain in the southern and northern areas of the state over the next two days. Squally weather and winds with a speed of up to 50 km per hour is likely along the north Orissa coast, a weather department official said.