The death toll from the worst floods to hit south India in decades has passed 300, officials said on Wednesday, as relief efforts struggled to help survivors.
At least 1.5 million people have been displaced in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh after days of torrential rain. More than 200 people have been killed in Karnataka alone, said HV Parashwanath, secretary of Karnataka’s disaster monitoring agency.
“There could be 200,000 to 300,000 people in villages where aid has not reached,” he said. Authorities said more than half a million people were in relief camps in Andhra Pradesh, with a further 650,000 in shelters in Karnataka.
Residents who stayed in their homes took refuge on balconies and rooftops, complaining that food and aid had been slow to reach them. Maheswar, a 46-year-old farmer in the village of Burdipadu in Karnataka, lost all his crops to the floods.
“The government needs to help us. For the next three months, I have nothing to feed my parents, wife or three children,” he said.
India’s defence ministry said the military had delivered more than 4.5 tonnes of food to survivors whose grain stocks have been wiped out.
The floods sent food prices rocketing throughout the region, with rice and sugarcane among the worst-damaged crops.
Tens of thousands of livestock carcasses littered fields and roads.
“The long term impact is what should concern all of us, especially in a year when we were going through a drought,” Jayakumar Christian, India director for World Vision, told AFP from Chennai, capital of southern Tamil Nadu state. “Earlier there was migration due to drought and now there is migration due to monsoon,” he said.
Aid workers focused on health risks as drainage systems collapsed, contaminating water supplies and heightening the risk of epidemic.
Christian estimated that around seven million people were affected in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh where major rivers breached their banks last week.
Villages still submerged
Dozens of villages in coastal Andhra Pradesh remained inundated Wednesday after the Krishna river breached its embankment even though the overall flood situation improved as floodwaters in the swollen river began receding.
Repalle town and several villages in Guntur and Krishna districts, which were inundated Tuesday following breaches in the river embankments, remained under water for the second day.
About 200 villages in the two districts and some parts of Vijayawada city are still submerged. Authorities had evacuated 250,000 people from these villages.
Krishna District Collector Piyush Kumar asked officials to remain on alert for the next 24 hours due to weakening embankments at some places.
The water inflows at Prakasam barrage in Vijayawada city, which had crossed a million cusecs Tuesday, came down to 840,000 cusecs Wednesday. The outflow has also come down, providing a ray of hope to the worst-hit villages downstream.
While floodwaters are receding in and around Vijayawada, the island villages near the point where the river meets Bay of Bengal are still under water.
Billed as the worst floods in over a century, the disaster has so far claimed 62 lives and displaced half a million people in five districts since Oct 2.
Meanwhile, hundreds of workers continued to remove mounds of slush and heaps of garbage from the streets of the worst-hit Kurnool town. Sanitation workers with bulldozers and trucks continued to clear the town, the headquarters of Kurnool district.
Though it has been more than two days since the floodwaters receded in the town, life has not returned to normal. Officials said it may take three to four days mpre to remove the slush from the town.
Rotting carcasses of cattle and stray animals and heaps of garbage have now led to a fear of epidemics. Medical teams have been rushed from other parts of the state to control any outbreak of diseases.
As dozens of villages in both Kurnool and Mahbubnagar districts remained under water, flood victims in relief camps waited for the waters to recede.
The floods have caused massive devastation in towns and villages in the four worst-hit districts of Andhra Pradesh. The initial estimates put the total damages at Rs.12,225 crore.
State Agriculture Minister Raghuveera Reddy Wednesday said the agriculture sector alone has suffered a loss of Rs.375 crore. The paddy production in the state is likely to come down by 30 lakh tonnes, the value of which is estimated to be Rs.860 crore. The floods have damaged crops in over 241,000 hectares.