Balangir moves from ‘drought’ to flood-like situation within days

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BALANGIR/BHUBANESWAR: Just a few days back Balangir district was staring at a drought-like situation. On Tuesday, more than 15,000 people were shifted to temporary shelters as heavy rain disrupted normal life in Balangir town and several blocks of the district.

Water has been flowing over roads and into the homes of people leaving in low lying areas. Incessant rainfall over the past 24 hours has forced people to stay indoors.

“So far we have evacuated as many as 15,000 people from Balangir municipality area, 500 from Gudvela block and 100 from Deogan block,” said Shankarsan Padhan, emergency officer (Balangir).

He said said fire service personnel, police and members of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) are engaged in rescue operation in the affected areas. The district has received nearly 500 mm rainfall so far.

Rajkishor Rout, a resident of Balangir town said he has never witnessed such rains and waterlogging in the town in four decades.

“All the municipality wards are under water. People living on the banks of Laxmijore (a natural water channel passing through the town) and the embankment located inside the town had to leave their homes in the morning and move to safer places,” Rout said.

“Faulty drainage system, encroachment of water bodies and illegal colony in low lying areas have made the flood situation worst. The administration should take strict action against illegal construction over drains as well as vulnerable areas,” he added. Officials said they had to break the embankment of an irrigation project over Laxmijore near Rajendrapara to help discharge flood water after apprehending that excess water could casue damage to the dam. Rajendrapara, Hatisalpara, Thikadarpara, Bramhanpara, Barpalipara, Talpalipara, Bibhutipara, Tulsinagar, Rugudipara and Madhipali localities remained waterlogged.

More than four feet of water was flowing over the bridge connecting Bramhanpara and Barpalipara. “Many houses in these two localities got washed away. Madhiapali village is under 20 feet of water. As many as 300 people were perched on the roof of houses, waiting to be rescued,” said a district official.

“Local youths and police rescued more than 70 people by cutting open a channel on National Highway-26 to discharge flood water. Some affected people were kept in the school building of Banchorpali and Chandanpali and provided cooked food by the local volunteer. Boats were also used to rescue many people,” said Subranshu Patel, a resident of Madhiapali. The heavy downpour led to the swelling of rivers and rivulets. Rain water in Tel, Lanth and Rahul rivers are flowing above the danger mark causing the water to gush into residential areas and farm land.

Rise in water level in Rahul river in Gudvela block has isolated eight villages from the rest of the area. The district administration initiated rescue operation on Monday night and moved people to safety.

Padhan said all relief camps are operational and affected people were being provided cooked food. Besides, dry food items like rice flakes and sugar were supplied in some places.