Once Again, Water Water Everywhere…

A flood warning and high alert has been sounded in several districts of Orissa, even as the waters have started receding in major rivers. With torrential rainfall in the catchment area of Mahanadi river and Hirakud dam crest gates open, the situation could get worse. The deluge was caused by 61 breaches in Mahanadi delta region.

If the havoc created in Bihar by the Kosi river was not enough, certain districts of Orissa are set to face the devastating effects of the floods. The Bihar floods had seen more than thirty lakh people being affected, displaced or rendered homeless. More than a hundred people had lost their lives, whereas hundreds are still reported missing. There, just as the flood waters have receded, the threat of epidemics is still looming large.

The situation in Orissa is expected to be grim and reminiscent of the floods in the year 2001 which had affected more then fifty lakh people all across the state. The floods in 2001 were said to be the worst floods since independence to have hit the state of Orissa. As of now, twenty-seven deaths have been reported, while over six lakh people are marooned. Meanwhile, evacuations have begun so that people in low lying areas can move to some place less dangerous. More than one lakh people have already been evacuated and move to safer grounds. After the devastation caused in the Bihar floods, the state government of Orissa does not want to take any chances. BSF and CISF have been deployed in the badly affected Kendrapara region, and the government has also sought the help of the navy. A high alert has been sounded in four coastal district of Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Puri.

The Hirakud dam built on the Mahanadi river has also been affected and due to the rising water levelsl, more than twenty gates of the dam have been opened to allow for the discharge of water. The capacity of the reservoir is 630 feet, and the level has been hovering near that mark and so the crest gates had to be opened.

The state of Orissa has not been averse to the destruction caused by the floods. In the year 2001 too, a similar situation had been witnessed when the Mahanadi river overflowed and almost 15 lakh cusecs of water passed through the plains. The year 1982 had faced worse floods as almost 16 lakh cusecs of water had flooded the area.

The Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force has set about evacuation people from the danger prone zones. With the help of power boats, the district administrations have set about their task of rescuing people. An alert has been sounded and people have been advised to carry valuables and food supplies to last them for three days and move to places where they are being advised to.

The state government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the safety of the people of Orissa as the Special Relief Commissioner of Orissa N K Sunderray said that 14 lakh cusecs of water has crossed the Naraj bridge in cuttack, and it is a huge flood. The situation could get worse and like Bihar, the people could face the dangers of the lack of food, medical supplies and clean drinking water in the future.

Many of the survivors had been victims of the 1999 cyclone and this comes as yet another jolt. Help is being sent from various quarters. However, yet again they are showing the resilience and bravery which they showed then. For more information on donations, please visit www.prathamorissa.org, which provides guidance as to how you can donate. The Red Cross is also another agency which has been actively working in that region (www.redcross.org/news/in/india). The community, already ravaged by the 1999 cyclone and the 2001 floods, sure could do with some outside help.

Shishir Srivastava

[Image Source: http://orissafloods.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/puri.jpg]