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Flood washes away festive fervour

Odisho (Kendrapara), Aug. 31: Young Minati Sahoo, who should have been enjoying Ganesh Chaturthi, had no time for the god as she anxiously watched the swelling Chitroptala river breach its embankment near her village.

Her school, Odisho Girls’ High School in Kendrapara district, was already under water. The Karnataka-built Shastriji Uppper Primary School and cyclone shelter, too, had met the same fate.

Like Minati, the other residents of Odisho village forgot all about Lord Ganesh, the destroyer of all evil, as the Chitroptala gushed through the 60 metre-wide breach, chipping away large chunks of the embankment. “Who knows how long this embankment will hold'” said elderly Kunjabihari Nath.

The current floods have triggered at least 21 breaches in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts. Since 1982, the region has suffered three devastating floods but has seen no fortification of the embankments.

All eyes in Odisho were on the temple of Goddess Budhi Jagulei, a few metres from the embankment. The two concrete lions at its entrance appeared to look on petrified as the rising floodwater swirled all around and lapped at the seat of the goddess.

An elderly villager expressed Odisho’s fears for its fate when he said: “The goddess is our saviour.”

The fear was the same on both sides of the Chitroptala. Trilochan Mahali, a 40-year-old farmer in Bindhalo village, and his family had barely escaped drowning yesterday when a breach had washed away their mud house.

“I expected a good crop as the rains were good. Now the rains have taken away my house and boats,” he said, clutching at packets of soggy biscuits and flattened rice. The countryboat he had escaped in, too, was washed away.

Like Bindhalo, at least 70 other villages in the region have turned into vast sheets of water following three massive breaches near Odisho.

With relief from the government yet to reach the distressed, the local people have decided to reach out to the marooned. For instance, a powerboat that could not carry more than 25 people tried to reach out to those affected.

Much of the effort was in vain as too many anxious relatives tried to crowd in. Those who could not, sent out loaves of bread, biscuit packets and flattened rice to the villagers.

State mandarins, however, claimed in Bhubaneswar that the situation was under control as the level in the Hirakud reservoir had dipped to 628.31 ft from yesterday’s 629.5 ft.

Chief secretary P.K. Mohanty said six teams of the navy and three columns of the army had been deployed in flood-hit Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara. “We are trying to reach the 746 marooned villages.”

He said four more units of the navy and one more column of the army were on their way to the state. Besides, 52 medical teams had been dispatched to the affected areas.

But no doctors or medical teams could be seen at Odisho, where an ageing Prahalad Swain and his family were suffering from diarrhoea.

According to PTI, 110 jawans flew in from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, this evening on the state government’s request. They came with nine powerboats and other equipment.

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