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No respite from flood for Andhra
Published on 7 Oct. 2009 1:40 AM IST
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The centre Tuesday assured Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka that funds were not a constraint to rehabilitate the flood-ravaged people in the two states, even as fresh flooding inundated dozens of villages in Krishna and Guntur districts in Andhra Pradesh. Tuesday’s flood was caused by the Krishna river breaching its embankment but a major tragedy was averted as most of the people in the affected villages had moved to safety. Several who had stayed back were rescued. The rain and flood havoc that began Sep 30 in the northern districts of Karnataka and moved to engulf neighbouring areas in Andhra Pradesh have so far claimed around 260 lives in the two states and left millions homeless. The toll in Karnataka is 206, an official statement said Tuesday. Fifty-two deaths have been reported in Andhra Pradesh. The Karnataka government has estimated the loss to property and crops at Rs.20,000 crore. Andhra Pradesh has put its losses at Rs.12,500 crore. “We were deeply moved by the scale of the calamity,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Tuesday, a day after he accompanied Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on an aerial survey of the trail of death and destruction in the two states. “The loss of life, property, cattle and standing crops is enormous. Lakhs of people have been accommodated in camps,” he said in a statement in New Delhi and told the two state governments that the central government was ready to give more help “I wish to assure the state governments that availability of funds will not be a constraint and that they should focus on providing relief to the affected people,” Chidambaram said. He promised further measures after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherji returns Wednesday from his foreign trip. Apart from claiming 52 lives, the floods in Andhra Pradesh have affected over 1.6 million people in five districts. Half a million people are homeless. In Karnataka, around 290,000 houses have been partially or fully damaged in around 1,500 villages and over 5,000 cattle have perished. About 660,000 people have taken shelter in over 1,600 relief camps. As Andhra Pradesh battled fresh floods, Karnataka was banking on the public, NGOs, religious and educational institutions and corporates to join its efforts in rebuilding the lives of more than a million people left homeless by three days of massive downpour and flash floods. While Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah quoted experts to say that the massive floods were a rare phenomenon and occur once in 1,000 years, his Karnataka counterpart described said this was the worst flood in 100 years. The Krishna river breaching its embankment to flood more areas Tuesday prompted a state minister to pray to “Krishnamma” or mother Krishna, as the Hindus call the river, to calm down. P. Ramachandra Reddy, state minister for forests, environment, science and technology, offered special prayers on the banks of the river in Vijayawada city, which is facing the threat of inundation along with hundreds of villages in Krishna and Guntur districts. Amid the chanting of Vedic hymns by a group of priests, the minister, with several other people, prayed to “Krishnamma” to quieten down and prevent further damage. Ramachandra Reddy, who is also the minister in charge of Krishna district, offered flowers to the river and stood in prayer with folded hands. “I have prayed to Krishnamma to calm down and stop further damage,” the minister told reporters. In contrast it was war of words in Karnataka between the state human rights panel chief and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders over flood relief operations. Ramachandra Gowda, the medical education minister, and V. Dhananjaya Kumar, a former central minister and now state government’s representative in New Delhi, attacked panel chief S.R. Nayak for stating there was delay in providing relief to the affected. “He should stick to his work and not behave like a politician,” the two BJP leaders said at separate press meets. Nayak, a former chief justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court, had said Saturday that the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues were busy attending a party “chinthan baithak” or introspection meeting in Mysore while rain and floods ravaged vast areas in the state. Authorities in Krishna and Guntur have evacuated 250,000 people from over 200 villages and parts of Vijayawada city, which too faces a threat due to the rising level in Prakasam barrage. However, the loss of life was minimised as officials had adequate time to evacuate people after Kurnool and Mahabubnagar districts were flooded upstream Oct 2. The water level in Prakasam barrage in Vijayawada city Tuesday rose to 21.9 feet against its full reservoir level of 23 feet. The inflows reached a record 1.13 million cusecs while the discharges into the sea was at 1.08 million, threatening the villages downstream. Areas upstream have already come under six to seven feet water. The Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway is also submerged, disrupting traffic between the two cities. Rosaiah Tuesday held a teleconference with the collectors of five flood-hit districts and asked officials of Krishna and Guntur districts to be on alert for the next 36 hours to Thursday and closely monitor the situation at embankments. Kurnool and Mahabubnagar, battered by floods last week, got a respite as water flow has almost stopped from dams in neighbouring Karnataka. The inflows at Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar projects have considerably decreased, enabling authorities to focus on relief and rehabilitation in Kurnool, Mantralayam and Nandyal towns as well as villages that bore the maximum brunt.

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