Cooked food being served to cyclone victims in Gopalpur. Picture by Gopal Krishna Reddy
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 16: Flood situation continued to be critical in north and coastal Odisha today with nearly 650 villages in the worst-hit Balasore district still lying marooned.
Rescue and relief workers struggled to reach out to the victims with boats as airdropping has been stopped for the past two days in view of massive wastage of food packets falling in rivers and rivulets as well as the mounting cost of the operation.
Sources said though floodwater had begun to recede in many areas of Balasore, Jajpur, Mayurbhanj and Bhadrak districts, the discharge was slow because of the high tide in the sea with time for the full moon approaching.
Marooned in their villages for the last four days, flood victims appeared to be a desperate lot, many complaining about the absence of relief material.
“We are yet to get any government relief. But for the mercy of my fellow villagers, my family would have perished by now,” said Binod Behari Senapati, 54, from Prakatpur in Jajpur district.
The same fate is being shared by the people of Champagadi village in the Khunta block (II) of Mayurbhanj district. Most of the thatched houses in the village were damaged beyond repair, forcing people to rush to a pucca school building that turned into a cyclone-cum-flood shelter.
“My house is gone and so are my belongings. I don’t know what we will do once we get out of here,” said Purna Chandra Patra, who is staying in the cyclone shelter with his wife and two children.
The absence of power supply and the alleged failure of the government to supply them with candles and kerosene has further compounded the woes of the people of Champagadi.
“For us the nights are endless as we can’t even light a candle. We live under the constant fear of being bitten by snakes and scorpions,” said Patra. Back in Bhubaneswar, chief minister, Naveen Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking advance central assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for immediate relief and restoration work.
“ I would request you to release an advance of Rs 1,000 crore over and above the corpus of Rs 523 crore available in the State Disasater Response Fund for the year 2013-14. This will help in meeting the immediate requirements. A detailed report in the form of a memorandum shall be presented soon after assessment of the damage,” the letter stated.
Naveen’s letter gave the Prime Minister an overview of the casualties and the extent of damage the state have suffered on account of Cyclone Phailin and the consequent floods. The letter said four lakh kutcha and semi-pucca houses had been damaged either partially or fully adding to the miseries of the people.
“Since floodwaters are yet to recede, we have not yet assessed the full damage to the standing crop but the damage is quite extensive covering over six lakh hectares as per our initial reports,” said Naveen, who turned 68 today but cancelled his birthday celebrations in view of the twin disasters the state was reeling from. He spent the better part of the day in review meetings at the secretariat along with senior officials.
The focus in most of these meetings was on Ganjam, Balasore and Mayurbhanj —the three districts that have suffered extensive damage in the cyclone and the floods that followed in its wake. Officials, however, claimed that around 80 per cent of the people staying in cyclone-cum-flood shelters had begun their journey back home.