89,000 Rendered Homeless in Flood-battered Maharashtra

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NDRF rescue work in flood-ravaged Raigad hillslips/landslides areas. — IANS

The worst-hit districts were Kolhapur, Raigad, Sangli, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sindhudurg, Mumbai and Thane, hitting a total of 890 villages.

MUMBAI — As rains finally took a break, the flood-ravaged districts of Maharashtra presented a grim scenario with over 89,000 people evacuated and only beginning to grapple with the idea of how to rebuild their lives, officials said here on Saturday.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray left Mumbai by helicopter to Raigad and then by road to survey the worst-hit Taliye village, near Mahad, where more than 50 people perished under a hillslide on Friday.

According to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the towns of Chiplun and Khed in Ratnagiri district were completely inundated with water, both remained cut-off from land routes as the Vashishti River bridge was washed away in the flood.

As unprecedented rains jacked up the water levels to more than 15-20 feet (or, two-three floors of buildings), thousands of people were stranded on rooftops or upper floods and were seen screaming for help.

The NDRF and ICG teams were deployed to rescue them while the IAF choppers dropped food and medicine packets, and over 1,000 were evacuated safely.

With a stupendous record 110-cms rainfall in the popular hillstation of Mahabaleshwar, massive water rushed to the Koyna Dam and Koltewadi Dam and their discharges caused the Vashishti River to swell above the danger levels, resulting in floods in the towns and villages on its banks.

There were over a dozen hillslides and landslips in different districts burying scores and many more reported missing and efforts on a warfront are on to rescue them from the slush and stones.

The state government has sanctioned Rs.2-crore for relief operations to the affected regions where water levels started receding and cleaning operations have been taken up.

The SDMA today pegged the current official death toll at 76 besides another 59 missing and 38 injured in the floods, hill-slips, landslides and other rain-related tragedies.

The worst-hit districts were Kolhapur, Raigad, Sangli, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sindhudurg, Mumbai and Thane, hitting a total of 890 villages.

A total of 25 NDRF teams plus eight on standby, three units each of Indian Army and Indian Coast Guard, seven of Indian Navy and one of Indian Air Force, besides local authorities are engaged in the rescue operations non-stop since the past over 24 hours.

The SDMA said that with fresh rains starting in the area, the authorities are on high alert to prevent any untoward situation while health officials are keeping an eye on the region for possible outbreak of any diseases in the flood aftermath.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the worst-hit Taliye village, near Mahad, met the few survivors and with folded hands, attempted to wipe their tears.

He was accompanied by Ministers Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena), Vijay Wadettiwar (Congress), Aditi Tatkare (Nationlist Congress Party) and her father Sunil Tatkare, the local NCP MP, and other top officials.

The entire region reeks of disaster, destruction, deaths of humans and animals, stench of the fast-rotting remains, razed fields and farmlands, spelling doom for the dazed people wondering how to pick up the threads afresh for their future.

“We have lost everything except the clothes I am wearing I have lost my entire 6-member family in the hillslide,” wept one of the lucky survivors, a woman, Archana, aged around 35.

Of the total 35 single or double-storied homes standing in the once bustling village, 32 have practically disappeared and so far there have been around 50 deaths and an equal number feared missing.

Another middle-aged man, dug out from the slush and was rushed to a Mahad hospital, had horror writ on his face – “We had not time to escape. There was a rumbling sound and in seconds, our landscape and the world changed,” he said.

One survivor, Mahendra Pol said with moist eyes that his entire family escaped the disaster and managed to flee to safety while most of his neighbours and friends were killed.

Thackeray gave patient hearing to the villagers and the survivors, and assured that the entire village would be redeveloped and resurrected, with full help to the locals who lost everything.

During Thackeray’s visit, a sudden heavy shower swept the area, and he grabbed an umbrella to speak to the survivors and the local media.

Free rations, kerosene

The Maharashtra government will provide free food-grains and kerosene to the people in the flood-hit regions of the state, Food & Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said here on Saturday.

The special aid will be given to all the people who have lost everything and around 89,000 have been rendered homeless in the ravaged regions of Raigad, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara which are hit the most by the torrential downpour since Thursday.

Accordingly, the government will provide 10 kg wheat, 10 kg rice, five kg dal and five litre kerosene to each family, as per a government policy of March 2019, said the minister.

The kerosene will help people cook their meals since many areas are still waterlogged and are without electricity and other fuels supplies due to the floods have been hit since the past three days. — IANS

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