Surging waters of mighty Mahanadi river hit the downstream belt engulfing vast areas aggravating the flood situation in Orissa with other major rivers in the state also in spate.
The state government sounded a high alert in four coastal district of Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Puri in view of the flood which has claimed nine lives so far. Evacuation operations has been launched on a big scale to shift the residents of low-lying areas to the safer places.
As many as 26 gates of the Hirakud dam on Mahanadi have been opened for quich discharge of water as the level in the reservoir reached its full capacity of 630 feet, official sources said.
Inflow of water into the reservoir was recorded at 4.6 lakh cusec on Friday morning, while an equal volume was being drained out through the sluice gates.
With heavy release of water from the Hirakud reservoir, the flow of water at Khairmal was recorded at 14.38 lakh cusec while it was 13.66 lakh at Munduli on Friday morning, they said. A major flood in Mahanadi was thereby threatening the delta region as the huge volume of water inundated the plains.
The Mahanadi's waters have already inundated several low lying areas of Cuttack district including Banki, Athgarh and Narsinghpur, besides Athamallick, Boudh and Sonepur.
The embankments of the Mahanadi and its branches criss-crossing the coastal plains have a capacity to contain about 12 lakh cusecs of water, a senior official said. The present flood situation in Mahanadi was similar to the one faced in 2001 when 14.8 lakh cusec of water passed through the plains. Earlier in 1982, 15.80 lakh cusec of water had wreaked havoc in the area.
As several other rivers like Brahmani, Baitarani and Subarnarekha were also in spate, one person was feared drowned in swirling waters of Tel in Sonepur, while two flood related deaths were reported each from Mayurbhanj, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Kendrapara districts, official sources said.
The fury in Mahanadi appeared more menacing due to heavy rains in lower catchment area below the Hirakud dam spread over the Kalahandi and Balangir districts, they said. All major tributaries of Mahanadi including Hati, Tel and Udanti also witnessed flood due to the heavy precipitation in the lower catchment areas, they said.
As vast parts of Boudh were inundated, the civic polls there scheduled for Friday have been deferred to September 22.
In a bid to tackle floods in Mahanadi delta, the water resoures department has been directed to immediately attend vulnerable points on river embankments and take the required steps forthwith, sources said.
The state government has sought 30 boats from the Centre for undertaking relief and rescue operation in flood affected areas, while two helicopters have already been kept ready to deal with the situation.
The district administration in Kendrapara has evacuated over 5,000 people from low-lying areas. Schools in the four coastal districts have been closed and readied for use as temporary shelters for people along with the large number of cyclone shelters built after the super cyclone of 1999.