Odisha steps up relief efforts for flood survivors

Bhubaneswar, Oct 15 (IANS) Odisha Tuesday intensified relief efforts in the areas affected by cyclonic storm Phailin after flood waters started receding, an official said.

"We have intensified relief efforts in the affected areas as the flood waters have started receding," state special relief commissioner Pradeep Mohapatra told IANS.

Air dropping of food packets has also been stopped, as all the affected places are now approachable by road or in boats, he said.

"We have so far evacuated at least 112,000 people. We do not think any further evacuation is required," he added. However, television channels showed footage of people stranded on house tops and high-rise embankments.

Heavy rain brought by cyclone Phailin that hit the state coast Saturday night triggered floods in Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur and Bhadrak districts.

More than a million people were affected when water from major rivers and their tributaries submerged low-lying areas and swamped homes.

Mohapatra said except some places in Balasore district, situation has improved.

In Balasore, water level in the Subarnarekha river was rising after heavy rain in the upper catchment area, revenue divisional commissioner Arabinda Kumar Padhee, supervising relief and rescue operation in the area, told IANS.

The army, the National Disaster Response Force, the Odisha Disaster Response Force and the state police were continuing relief operations in the affected areas, he said.

The worst-hit districts are Ganjam, Puri, Khordha and Gajapati.

Although damage to properties was estimated in crores of rupees, loss of humans was minimal compared to the 1999 super cyclone that claimed over 10,000 lives. The low casualty were due to large-scale evacuation before the cyclone struck, officials said.

The toll due to the latest cyclone and flooding rose to 26 as the government Tuesday confirmed five more deaths due to floods.

More than 10 lakh people from the low-lying coastal areas are sheltered in safer places. While some have returned home, many were still living in relief camps and shelters as their houses were damaged.

According to preliminary government estimate, more than a crore people in the state have been affected. More than two lakh houses have been damaged in Ganjam district.

Meanwhile, the government Tuesday announced Rs.4 lakh from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund and Rs.2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund to the kin of those killed in the disaster.

Besides, those seriously injured will receive Rs.50,000 from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has directed officials to hand over the compensation amount to the eligible within next two days.

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