As gushing water from breaches in Orissa's Mahanadi delta engulfed fresh areas, more naval and paramilitary men on Tuesday joined relief work for the marooned people in the flood, which has affected 38 lakh people and claimed at least 31 lives.
Though the water level in Mahanadi and other rivers subsided considerably, surging waters from about 80 breaches in embankments in the Mahanadi system continued to submerge fresh areas, worsening the plight of the people in the flood ravaged villages, official sources said.
Two naval teams from I N S Chilika had been pressed into service for rescue and relief on Monday, while more personnel were being sent to the flood affected areas to intensify the operation, they said.
Jawans of Central Industrial Security Force have also joined the relief operation, which had remained tardy in the absence of adequate manpower and boats at the disposal of the state government, sources said.
A large number of tourists were stranded in the holy town of Puri in the wake of cancellation of train services to the sea side town due to submergence of tracks near Pipili. Road links with Puri and the tourist spot of Konark, famous for its historic Sun temple, had snapped earlier.
While four choppers were engaged in air dropping of relief materials, flood affected people in many areas complained that many food packets fell at wrong places and were swallowed by flood waters.
According to a senior officer, about 52,000 houses were damaged in the flood, while 2,84 lakh persons were evacuated and 1,393 boats deployed in relief and rescue operation.
A fresh cause of worry was a Met office forecast about heavy rainfall in lower catchment areas of major rivers like Mahanadi, Subarnarekha, Budhabalang and Baitarani.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil arrived in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday on a day's visit to make an aerial survey and assess the damage.
Union Minister of State for Rural Development Chandrasekhar Sahu and National Disaster Mitigation Authority Vice-Chairman N C Viz accompanied Patil.
Immediately after his arrival, Patil left for an aerial survey of the flood-hit districts along with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Leader of Opposition J B Pattnaik.
On his return, Patil is scheduled to review the flood situation at a high level meeting with the chief minister and return to New Delhi today evening.
The chief minister, while demanding that the Orissa flood be declared as a national disaster, sought an assistance of Rs 1,500 crore for relief and rehabilitation measures from the National Calamity Contingency Relief Fund.