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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Phailin shifts to Jharkhand, leaves 2.5 lakh marooned in Odisha

Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times  Bhubaneswar, October 14, 2013
First Published: 12:11 IST(14/10/2013) | Last Updated: 16:40 IST(15/10/2013)

More than 2.50 lakh people were marooned in four northern Odisha district - Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur and Bhadrak - on Monday after heavy rains triggered by waning cyclone Phailin swelled Budhabalanga river.

At least four persons were killed due to floods in Balasore and Mayurbhanj.

The state government, which has just begun relief and rehabilitation in cyclone ravaged districts, had to rush teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), army and navy to rescue the affected people in Balasore, the worst hit district.

"We have started air dropping food packets to the marooned people," Odisha revenue and disaster management minister SN Patro said, adding the flood waters have started ebbing.

At least four of the total 12 blocks of Balasore were worst hit, as flood waters inundated low lying areas and crop fields. About 70,000 people were evacuated.

The floods that started on Sunday night caught Balasore administration off guard, cutting off four blocks as flood water spilled over two national highways.

Thousands of people had to take shelter on roofs of their houses and schools.

"This is the worst flood I have seen in my life so far. The government was clearly unprepared as no official came to our rescue despite our repeated pleas," 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.

After exhausting most of its fury on the state, Phailin finally left Odisha and shifted to neighbouring Jharkhand, leaving many districts flooded and a trail of destruction behind.

"The deep depression over north Chhattisgarh and adjoining areas of Odisha and Jharkhand moved north- northeastwards and weakened into a depression. It lay centered southwest of Daltonganj in Jharkhand," an official of Indian Meteorological Department said.

The system has already started showing its effects. Bihar put all its districts on flood alert after heavy rains lashed the state, while Met department warned of "very heavy rainfall" in Sikkim and Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri areas of West Bengal over the next 48 hours.

A villager stands beside her house ravaged by cyclone Phailin. (Arabinda Mahapatra/HT Photo)

Four persons, including a 70-year-old man, were crushed alive under the debris of their thatched huts that collapsed due to heavy rains in various parts of Bihar.

Accurate predictions and the largest evacuation in the past 23 years restricted the casualties to 21, most of them caused by falling trees and collapsing walls. With four deaths caused by the floods, the total death toll in the state reached 25.

Meanwhile, many returned home on Monday to discover their homes, many flimsy mud and thatch dwellings, as well as their businesses, damaged or destroyed.

"I left everything behind and when I came back nothing was here," said Bhagwan, 50, a coconut seller from Gopalpur.

With the threat of Phailin dissipating, all relief camps in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts in north coastal Andhra Pradesh are being closed on Monday, while restoration works picked pace.

Food minister KV Thomas, meanwhile, said domestic supply of rice or its exports will not be affected by the widespread damage to standing crops in the two states.

"Our production is so high. We have ample stocks that show India's strength," he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

READ: Anger mounting over 'shoddy' Odisha relief
READ: Odisha turns to Centre for financial help
READ: Odisha’s braveheart couple stays put, survives Phailin fury
READ: Prices of essential commodities spike in Ganjam local markets

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