After cyclone, floods – troubles appear to be far from over for Odisha.
People wait for relief material on top of a thatched roof in a flooded locality, after heavy rains lashed Balasore in the aftermath of cyclone Phailin on Monday. (PTI Photo)
On Monday, four persons died and nearly 250,000 people lost their homes in Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts when heavy rains triggered by a waning cyclone Phailin caused severe floods in the Budhabalanga river.
The swelling river flooded two national highways, cutting four blocks off altogether. Thousands of people had to take shelter on roofs of houses and schools.
The state government, which had just started relief work, had to divert forces to rescue the stranded people, most of whom were still in the cyclone shelters. By the evening, around 70,000 people were taken to safety by the teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, National Disaster Response Force, the army and the navy.
The locals claimed though the river had started swelling since Saturday night, hours after the Phailin had hit, the flood had caught the district administration off guard.
“This was the worst flood of my life. The government was clearly unprepared. Despite our repeated pleas, no official came to our rescue,” said Rama Majhi of Kantabania village.
Disaster management minister SN Patro, however, contested the claims, saying the situation was under control. The flood waters, he said, have started receding. Four IAF helicopters were deputed since the early hours of Monday to airdrop food and relief material and evacuate the people.
The army is bracing for similar floods elsewhere in the state, given the incessant rains. “We would stay here for any further assistance that may be needed,” said Ramesh Rana, officer in charge of the disaster operations in the state.
An integrated station of the army, navy and air force has been set up in Gopalpur. From there, troops are being deputed to clear roads, restore power and telecommunication lines and distribute relief material in remote areas.