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Harvest hopes and homes on the brink

Garapada (Puri), Sept. 1: Two months from now, Rasananda Bhaula would have been a happy man for he would have reaped a good harvest from his two acres.

The 63-year-old resident of Garapada village in Puri’s Nimapara block lost all his standing crop to floods two years ago. Last Friday, he faced twin dangers as water from the Dhanua river nearby submerged his cropland as well as that of a hundred others. His eight-member family has also been finding it difficult to rustle up a square meal.

Bhaula is not alone. With the village submerged in neck-deep water, 150 other families face the same problem.

“We will have to go hungry today,” says Bhaula. But that is the least of his problems.

Flood waters lap his mud- house, making the walls soggy and at risk of collapse anytime. Fellow villager Basudev Pradhan faces the same problem.

Already, the mud walls of Surendra Ram’s two-room house have collapsed, leaving only the thatched roof intact. About 20 mud-houses have been washed away in the water that is waist-deep on the road nearby.

Villagers say neither the local MLA nor any government official has visited the area.

Floods are a recurring problem in the village due to its proximity to the Dhanua, but many villagers have pucca houses thanks to the Indira Awas Yojana. But the head of the Dhanua gram panchayat has allegedly demanded a Rs 5,000 bribe to sanction the Rs 22,000 loan.

Elsewhere in Orissa, over 25,000 mud-houses are reported to have been washed away or have partially collapsed due to surging flood water from streams in the Mahanadi river system. The death toll has risen to 13 with reports of snake bites, drowning and wall collapses coming in.

The level in the Hirakud reservoir has dipped and the dam is flushing out less water than before. Despite this, the situation remains grim for more rain has been forecast in the upper and lower catchment areas of the Mahanadi in the next 24 hours.

Three army columns and six naval teams along with government officials are trying to reach out to the lakhs who have affected. Even so, there are many villagers who are cut off.

Orissa chief secretary P.K. Mohanty said 789 of the 3,800-odd affected villages have been marooned. About 78,000 people have been evacuated from these areas. “All the marooned villages have been provided relief,” he added.

Special relief commissioner R. Balakrishnan said the relief system was need-based and all the affected may not need relief. He said about 695,000 people have been provided emergency relief.

Naval ship INS Savitri has arrived at Paradip port with relief and rescue material.

Seven coast guard rescue teams are also at work in Jagatsinghpur district.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has requested the Centre for an interim Rs 250 crore assistance from the National Calamity Contingency Fund to tackle the situation.

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