|A man wades through floodwater to reach a safer place at Dihabalrampur village in Kendrapara on Tuesday.
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 5: The state government today braced for high floods in the Mahanadi river system following heavy rainfall in the river’s upper catchment area, including Chhatisgarh, in the past 24 hours.
The government has cancelled the leave of all its employees in the flood-affected areas, which have reported 23 deaths so far.
Special relief commissioner P.K. Mohapatra said: “We are expecting a high flood in the Mahanadi river system as 12 lakh to 12.5 lakh cusecs of water is expected to pass through the Mundali barrage in Cuttack tomorrow. The volume of floodwater at Khairamal, where the Mahanadi joins the Tel river in Boudh district, has also gone up significantly.”
The Tel, a Mahanadi tributary, flows through Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Sonepur before joining the bigger river at Khairmal, which is part of Mahanadi’s lower catchment areas. While Khairmal is 115km from the Hirakud reservoir, the distance between Khairmal and Mundali is 205km.
With heavy discharge of floodwaters from the Hirakud reservoir in the Mahanadi, about 10.68 lakh cusecs of water was flowing through the Khairmal gauge station by 3pm today. But, the bigger danger was the possibility of about 12.5 lakh cusecs of water reaching the Mundali barrage as it would cause severe inundation in the Mahanadi delta, including the districts of Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Khurda by tomorrow.
Floodwaters have entered many interior pockets in the coastal belt. While the Banki-Bhubaneswar road has been cut off, parts of Athgarh and Tigira have been marooned. District officials have been asked to keep a close watch on major river embankments ensuring regular patrolling by engineers in the presence of a magistrate.
The heavy discharge from the Hirakud reservoir is certain to worsen the situation in the coastal belt. Sources said the water level in the state’s biggest reservoir has already touched 625.65 feet against its full capacity of 630 feet. This was forcing the authorities to resort to heavy discharge. As of now while 5.96 lakh cusecs of water was entering the reservoir, 2.59 cusecs were being released through its 18 gates.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the situation with collectors of Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Cuttack, Puri, Nayagarh, Khurda, Boudh, Sambalpur, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Keonjhar and Balasore districts. Since the high floods in the Mahanadi system are likely to hit Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Boudh and Khurda most, it has been decided to evacuate people from the low-lying areas of these districts.
Flood situation also continued to be grim in Sambalpur and Deogarh districts, which witnessed 246mm and 249mm of rainfall, respectively, in the past 24 hours. The west Odisha towns of Burla and Hirakud, situated near Sambalpur, recorded even heavier rainfall, recording 271mm and 252mm, respectively. The crucial road link between Sambalpur and Jharsuguda has been snapped.
Though there has been some improvement in the situation in the Baitarani river basin, Keonjhar, Jajpur and Bhadrak are still battling floodwaters with hundreds of villages lying marooned. The water level at Budhabalang had started receding, which might be good news for the people of Mayurbhanj, but the road connecting Calcutta and Jamshedpur that passes through the district still remains cut off. In Kalahandi, the Hati river continues to flow above the danger level.