Lakhs of flood-hit evacuated

Mumbai, August 5:

Villages in western and southern India were today evacuated with at least 322,000 people moved to higher ground as waters released from near-bursting dams flooded vast rural tracts, officials said. BS Prakash, chief of the disaster unit in Karnataka, said 16 more people died overnight due to house collapses and flooding in rural regions. Overflowing rivers and dams in Maharashtra, which bore the brunt of a week-long drenching that left more than 1,000 people dead, were emptying waters into neighbouring Karnataka, he said. “A massive evacuation exercise is underway,” Prakash told AFP. “More than 122,000 villagers have been evacuated (in Karnataka) so far and 3,200 villages are hit.” The state authorities had deployed

boats and helicopters of the Indian air force to rescue and provide relief to marooned villagers. “According to the state officials working in these regions, 200 villages have been inundated while 15 villages with a population of 20,000 have been completely marooned,” Prakash said.

State government officials said 23,280 houses in the flooded regions had already been destroyed by the swirling waters. Prakash said 83,000 hectares of crops were damaged in Karnataka. “The damage in Karnataka state is estimated to be worth $129 million dollars so far,” Prakash said. “The whole administration is on alert as more and more waters are being released from Maharashtra.” In Maharashtra, at least 100,000 villagers have been moved to government shelters being set up in schools and state-run offices, state police chief PS Pasricha said. “In areas which are of major concern we are despatching army boats to help speed up evacuation operations. More people from low-lying areas in southern tip of Maharashtra are being evacuated,” Pasricha told AFP. Meanwhile, authorities in Mumbai were today still trying to contain looming epidemics. The municipal authorities and police have set up health camps across the city of 15 million people, but drug shortages are hampering their drive, officials said. “There is a shortage of drugs, especially antibiotics meant to be given for children. We are requesting donors to get it for us,” Red Cross official Homai Modi said. Archana Patil, the Deputy Director of the Public Health Department in Mumbai, said stocks were “low but just enough for the moment.” Over 14,000 cases of diarrhoea and another 14,000 patients with fever were reported in the past week.