A flooded street in Hyderabad. (AFP)
Hyderabad, Oct. 27: Incessant rain over the past five days has left more than four dozen people dead in Andhra Pradesh, most of them buried under collapsed walls, as the elements piled on the misery of a state rocked by political turmoil.
Nearly eight lakh hectares of crops have been inundated by the downpour that has thrown train schedules haywire and snapped communications in over 16 districts, affecting residents in both Telangana and the Seemandhra regions, the rival theatres of the latest round of the pro- and anti-statehood tussle.
“For nearly 70 days we suffered because of the strike by government employees,” said Purnachandra Rao of Machilipatnam in Seemandhra. “Now it’s the rain.”
The strike, suspended since cyclone Phailin made landfall earlier this month, was in protest against the Centre’s decision to carve out a Telangana state from Andhra.
Now the rain, days ahead of Diwali next Sunday, has made sure that coastal Andhra has had little respite since the storm battered the region, flattening homes and uprooting hundreds of thousands of life-sustaining coconut trees.
Officials reeled off grim statistics: 4,190 villages in 16 districts affected; 21,682 houses damaged; 7.99 lakh hectares of standing crops like cotton, paddy, maize, sugarcane and tobacco flooded; and 1,020 minor irrigation tanks breached.
Over 4,000km of roads have been damaged, National Disaster Management (NDM) commissioner T. Radha said, adding the Met office had forecast rain till Monday morning.
The government said the loss so far in terms of property and crops was around Rs 1,727 crore.
Nineteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in various districts. Chief minister Kiran Reddy, set to take off on an aerial survey tomorrow morning, has also sought the help of the army and the air force wherever necessary.
Officials said 225 relief camps had been set up and more than 84,700 people had been evacuated.
The toll crossed 50 this evening as reports trickled in from the coastal areas. While electrocutions and road accidents claimed many lives, nearly three dozen died after walls, weakened by rainwater, collapsed on them.
More than 30 such deaths have been reported from the coastal districts of Prakasam and Srikakulam, while five persons died in Hyderabad city.
Most of the dead were either poor farmers or day labourers, NDM commissioner Radha said.
Many colonies in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam have been flooded, forcing residents to climb to rooftops, the young and able-bodied hauling up the old and the infirm to relative safety.
“The government machinery, which had gone to sleep for two months, has woken up but is not ready for relief action,” said Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, who has left on a tour of Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam by road.
With railway tracks still under rainwater on the east coast, several trains have been either cancelled or diverted. Railway traffic has been hit in the Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada sections.
The Visakha Express and the Bhubaneswar-Yeshvantpur Express were cancelled. The Howrah-Yeshvantpur Express, Bhubaneswar-Bangalore Prasanthi Express, Howrah-Vasco Amaravati Express and the Puri-Okha Express were diverted via Vizianagaram, Raipur and Nagpur.