Madhya Pradesh has just one boat to rescue seven lakh people, despite the fact that 2,500 people die every year in flood-related accidents, according to computation of official figures.
In the recent floods, at least 35 people had died and over 3.4 lakh people were affected across the state. But, the rescue teams felt handicapped at times and had to undertake rescue operations against all odds in many such areas in the state, sources said.
According to officials in the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Home Guards, they have nearly 100 rescue boats. This comes to around two rescue boats for each district.
State ideally needs 600 to 700 rescue boats
The state, with 52 districts, ideally needs nearly 600 to 700 rescue boats, said sources in the home guards department. The state has a population of 7.2 crore which makes just one boat for every seven lakh people here.
Senior officials said that despite lack of rescue boats and equipment, SDRF, home guards and volunteers successfully carried out rescued 25000 people from flood-affected areas in the state.
“We need more boats as sometimes we have to move more boats to a certain district or an area where there is a major crisis. When two stop dams collapsed in Panna district, we had to evacuate nearly 15,000 people there. Sometimes we don’t have enough time at our disposal to shift boats from one district to another,” said a senior official in the home guards, wishing anonymity.
Large numbers of dams in the state increase risk of flood
Given the presence of large numbers of dams in the state, there is always a chance that due to some crack in the dam walls or collapse of a dam or release of dam waters , there could be a major flood situation downstream. In such a scenario, we need more boats for the efficient rescue operations,” the official added.
Home guards and SDRF director general Maithili Sharan Gupt said they were in the process of buying more rescue boats.
‘We have started process for procurement of nearly 100 rescue boats’
“We have started a process for procurement of nearly 100 rescue boats. So soon we will effectively have nearly 200 boats. Besides this, we are also identifying and documenting people, agencies and organisations who have boats, which can be used for rescue operations during major floods,” he said.
Gupt said they had set up 372 disaster response centres in such areas from where their volunteers and SDRF could reach the affected people as soon as possible.
“A majority of these response centres have been set up after analyzing geotagged data related to deaths due to floods and drowning for last five years. Now we need to equip these centres with proper equipment whether it is enough rescue boats or diving suits. We are trying our best within the limitations of our resources,” he said.