Navy joins rescue operation as flood worsens in coastal Orissa

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Bhubaneswar, Sep 22 (UNI) Swimmers and divers from the Navy today joined the Air Force personnel in rescue and relief operation in coastal Orissa districts as the flood situation in Mahanadi river system turned more serious affecting over four million people and claiming 29 lives so far.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow along with Union Minister of State for Rural Development C S Sahoo for an aerial survey of the flood battered areas of the state.

Mr Patil will also hold a review meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the damages caused following the flood affecting nearly four million people in 18 of the total 30 districts of the state.

The Chief Minister had sought an assistance of Rs 1,500 crore from the National Calamity Contingency Relief Fund and demanded that the flood in Orissa be declared as national disaster.

State Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy told newspersons here that Navy swimmers and divers would be deployed in vulnerable areas of Kendrapara, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Puri to rescue the people from the inaccessible areas and extend assistance to them.

He said as many as three helicopters of the Air Force were dropping food packets in the inaccessible areas of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Puri since this morning.

Official sources said while at least nine people had lost their lives in Cuttak district in the current flood, four had died in Jajpur, three each in Angul, Bhadrak, Bolangir, two each in Khurda and Jagatsinghpur, one each in Keonjhar, Puri and Sambalpur.

The Chief Secretary said 73 river embankments had been breached of which nearly 30 breaches were reported from Cuttack followed by 18 in Kendrapada and 16 from Jagatsinghpur district.

Mr Tripathy said so far 5,514 villages in 121 Gram Panchayats spread over 18 districts were affected, 650 villages marooned, 51,417 houses damaged and around three lakh people evacuated.

The flood also damaged crops in over 4.17 lakh hectares of land, the Chief Secretary said, adding that the government had taken all possible steps for flood relief and deployed 1,400 boats for evacuation, 186 medical teams, 105 mobile medical teams and 370 free kitchens to extend necessary help to the people.

A 20-member medical team from MKCG Medical College, Berhampur, was also rushed to Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Puri.

Around nine lakh water pouches, sufficient halogen tablets and medicines were also rushed to the affected areas, he claimed.

In addition to the worst affected four coastal districts, the 14 other districts were also affected by the recent flood.

The Chief Secretary said the flood situation was expected to improve within a couple of days since there was no rain in the upper catchment areas of Mahanadi today and the flow of water at Naraj came down to 10.73 lakh cusecs.

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