Gajapati landslide: Disparity between SRC’s claims and version of villagers

Bhubaneswar: Despite the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Bishnupada Sethi’s claims that residents of Baraghara village in Gajapati district were informed about the Cyclone Titli and warned to leave for safer places much ahead of the landfall, doubts are being raised over the government official’s statements as the residents of the village today declined of any such prior caution.

The locals alleged that had they been informed about the cyclone in advance, the lives of 16 people could have been saved.

“Neither anyone from the administration nor any leader warned us about the cyclone. If they had told us, at least half of the villagers might have been moved to safer places,” said a local.

On the other hand, the SRC said the block chairman and executive engineer of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) had visited the village a day before and requested the residents to move to safer places.

However, seven families refused to shift and most of them became victims of the landslide, he added.
It is to be noted that the government has announced to provide Rs 4 lakh each to kin of the deceased, the SRC stated.

Asked about the death of eight persons who were swept away in flood water in Laxmipur village, Gajapati Collector Anupam Saha said the incident is being inquired by the SP.

Meanwhile, BJP has targeted the ruling party and the Gajapati district administration on the landslide matter and demanded dismissal of the Special Relief Commissioner.

“Either the SRC should immediately resign or the CM should dismiss the official if he is serious about the matter,” said Bhrugu Baxipatra, BJP general secretary.

Refuting the charges, BJD spokesperson, Sasmit Patra said, “The landslide incident was unfortunate but it was natural after incessant rain and the matter should not be politicised.”

Experts however opine that to check human casualties in inaccessible and hilly areas, the warning must have been issued at least 72 hours and the evacuation must be carried out within 48 hours.

“The State government is managing flood and cyclone in coastal areas only. But in hilly areas, rescue operation is very difficult due to flash flood and landslide,” Omi Daniel, a social activist.