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Flood kills 33 people every year

Bhubaneswar: Flood in the state, which is an annual feature during the monsoon, has continued to take a heavy toll on human lives and destroy property down the years despite better means of rescue at disposal. Official data show that on an average 33 people die every year and property worth Rs 322 crore is destroyed when rivers like Mahanadi, Subarnarekha, Brahmani, Baitarani, Vansadhara and Rushikulya are in spate.

"Between 1980 and 2011, altogether 1,043 people lost their lives in the flood while crops and property worth Rs 10,000 crore were lost in the state during the same period," a senior official in the special relief commissioner`s office said. At least 83 people were killed while 10 others went missing in the flood last month although rescuers are now equipped with helicopters, power boats, satellite phones and other aides.

The year 1982 saw the highest number of casualties when 126 persons perished in the devastating flood in the Mahanadi river delta, comprising Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur districts, and river Rushikulya in the southern districts of the state, records available with the Orissa State Disaster Management Authority stated.

"The livestock casualty is also very high. Since the state`s economy is predominantly agrarian, loss of livestock due to flood has a significant bearing on its economy," G K Panda, professor in geography at Utkal University, said. He was quoting a study report prepared jointly by UNDP, OSDMA and the university.

The annual average loss of livestock population is nearly 3,500. But during years of major floods like in 1980, 1994 and 2007, the loss of livestock population was 40116, 33,600 and 21,674 respectively. The worst-affected coastal districts in terms of livestock death are Balasore and Jajpur, Panda said. The loss of public properties in flood crossed all limits this time as the state government sought a central assistance of Rs 3,265 crore due to two spells of flood.

The previous record of property loss in flood was Rs 2,740 crore in 2006, official sources said. "The loss of Rs 3,265 crore this time was a preliminary estimation. The actual loss could be much more. We will be able to assess the exact quantum after getting details from the district level," said special relief commissioner P K Mohapatra.

Prof Panda also pointed out that the cropping area affected due to floods has also increased over the years. "The heaviest property damage has been reported from the districts of Cuttack, Jajpur and Khurda," he said quoting the study report.

The state has been known as perpetually flood affected, he said adding Orissa has also been a victim of all sorts of natural calamities like drought, cyclone, lightning and heat waves.

While the state is frequently ravaged by flood, mostly occurring in the Mahanadi, the state government needs to undertake some arrangement at the upper end to reduce its fury at the downstream areas, the state`s water resources secretary Suresh Mohapatra said.

Alleging mismanagement of water at Hirakud reservoir on Mahanadi river this time, opposition Congress and BJP have asked the Central Water Commission to look into the matter and take concrete steps to ensure proper management of the reservoir and effective coordination between Orissa and Chhattisgarh for monitoring of water flow.

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