Bhubaneswar, Oct 17 (IANS) The flood situation in Odisha's four northern districts showed signs of improvement Thursday, with water receding in most of the rivers and affected areas, officials said.
"The water has receded everywhere. The crisis is over. About 40,000 people were in different relief centres and they have been asked to go back home," the state's Special Relief Commissioner P.K. Mohapatra told IANS.
The very severe tropical cyclone Phailin in the Bay of Bengal, which struck Saturday night near Gopalpur in Ganjam district, left a trail of destruction, bringing heavy rain and causing floods.
Relief and restoration work continues on a war footing in the districts worst affected by Phailin, including Ganjam, Puri, Gajapati and Khurda. Floods have ravaged vast tracts in Balasore, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Jajpur districts.
While the number of deaths in the disaster has so far reached 43, the state government has said that about 1.2 crore people in 17 districts of the state have been affected by the cyclone and subsequent floods.
Police personnel were deployed in the worst cyclone-hit Ganjam district Thursday, after villagers blocked a national highway demanding immediate relief, also disrupting the movement of vehicles laden with relief material.
Hundreds of policemen will patrol National Highway (NH) No.16 to ensure the smooth flow of vehicles with relief material, district Superintendent of Police A.K. Singh told IANS.
More than 300 people Wednesday blocked NH-16 near Rambha, about 140 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, for more than an hour, disrupting the movement of trucks.
Other roads were also blocked by people demanding that they be provided relief first.
Singh said 300 policemen would patrol the highway, while another 300 will provide security cover to officials engaged in relief work.
"We will not spare anyone who blocks roads and obstructs movement of relief vehicles," the police officer said.
"People affected by the disaster now face the risk of getting water borne diseases. The focus should be on the need of children and other vulnerable groups," said Sasanka Kumar Padhi, Odisha state programme manager of Save the Children.
A senior official of the state revenue department said the government is taking steps to distribute relief material to affected people and helping them on their way to recovery.
Steps are also being taken to restore electricity, telephone services and water supply in affected areas, the official said.