Thousands of people have been stranded for the third consecutive day Wednesday in Odisha after massive floods triggered by a cyclone swamped their homes, officials and eyewitnesses said.
People took shelter on roof-tops, embankments and other high-rise places and officials and volunteers were making efforts to reach them food and other relief materials.The flood water has receded in many areas, but the situation continued to be grim in worst flood-hit Balasore district, officials said.
"Things are totally under control. No new area has been flooded. Some 96,000 flood affected people (in Balasore district) are getting relief," Arabinda Kumar Padhee, revenue divisional commissioner (central) who is supervising relief and rescue operation in the area, told IANS.
"The flood has affected about seven lakh people in the district and the number of those stranded may be about 12,000," he said.
Heavy rain brought on by Cyclone Phailin that hit the state coast Saturday night triggered floods in Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Keonjhar and Bhadrak districts. More than a million people were affected when water from major rivers and their tributaries submerged low-lying areas and entered habitations, officials said.
The army, the National Disaster Response Force, the Odisha Disaster Response Force and the state police were continuing relief operations in the affected areas.
The government claimed the flood water was receding and food and relief have been given to the needy, but eyewitnesses said the claim was untrue.
"I have taken shelter here with my family but except some dry flattened rice, officials have not given anything to us," said 45-year-old Sukanti Tudu, a woman who has taken shelter on a national highway near Balasore along with hundreds of others.
"Some private people gave us some food and we are surviving on that," she told IANS.Tudu is living on the highway the past three days with her eight family members, including children. She said her entire family was facing hunger and none of them has had a full meal.
"I visited more than a dozen villages in worst hit Balasore district. It was a super flood. The government was not prepared. They don't have required food for the victims. There are places where not a single government official has reached," former water resources minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Bijoy Mohapatra told IANS.
"Large number of people are living without food and water for the past three days," he said.
Hundreds of flood victims blocked roads, and staged angry demonstrations in some places of Mayurbhanj and Khurda districts to protest alleged irregularities in relief distribution.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the situation and ordered officials to book those involved in the loot of relief materials under the stringent National Security Act.
The very severe tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal which struck Saturday night near Gopalpur in Ganjam district has left a trail of destruction in the coastal districts of the state.
Although damage to properties was estimated at several crore rupees, the loss of humans was minimal compared to the 1999 super cyclone that claimed over 10,000 lives.The toll from the latest cyclone and flooding rose to 28 as the government Wednesday confirmed two more deaths due to floods.
Worst cyclone affected districts are Ganjam, Puri, Gajapati, Khurda while the worst flood hit districts are Balasore, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, and Jajpur.
Pradeep Mohapatra, state Special Relief Commissioner, told IANS the government is yet to assess the cost of the damage caused by the disaster.
The state energy department said loss to power sector alone, according preliminary assessment, is about Rs.900 crore.