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Odisha's eight districts are already inundated as the state faces the first flood of the season. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday asked officers concerned to ensure "zero casualty" amidst the rising water level in the Mahanadi river system.

The next 48 to 72 hours are critical for the Mahanadi delta region the special relief commissioner (SRC), P K Jena told reporters.

The state has witnessed torrential monsoonal rain in the catchment areas due to the week-long low pressure and depression, attracting rain bearing clouds.

“The flood situation in the Mahanadi river system is grim. The next 48 to 72 hours are critical for the state as about 12 lakh cusec flood water will flow at Mundali barrage near Cuttack and the water level in other connecting rivers will remain at about 10 lakh cusec," Jena said after Patnaik reviewed the situation.

Efforts are on to maintain maximum water level within 12 lakh cusec in order to keep it within a medium flood range. The water level in different gauge points will fall after the peak situation passed in the next 48 hours, special relief commissioner said.

On Monday the administration had closed eight more gates at Hirakud dam to control the situation. SRC Jena replying to a question said, “Now as the water level is increasing in the Hirakud reservoir, the decision on opening more gates will be taken after a review in Tuesday afternoon."

Water level in Hirakud reservoir crossed 626 feet against the full reservoir level of 630 feet by 12 noon alarming the officials as the Mahanadi river system turned grim.

Hirakud is the largest dam in the country with respect to its length but with enormous amount of water flowing downstream, the capacity of the structure has been sarpassed. Above 7.88 lakh cusec water is entering the Hirakud reservoir, about 4.45 lakh cusec is being discharged from the dam through 26 gates.

As expected above 11.7 lakh cusec of flood water is passing through Mundali barrage near Cuttack making the flood situation grim downstream, particularly in the Mahanadi delta region.

The SRC said that the water of Tel river, a tributary of Mahanadi will now decrease and be within 3.5 lakh cusec as against the earlier estimation of 5.5 lakh cusec as there has been no rainfall in the Indravati river basin in the last 24 hours. This may help in opening more gates of the Hirakud dam, he said.

The overflow from the flood has entered villages, agricultural fields and is flowing over different bridges in the districts of Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Boudh, Cuttack, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Puri districts.

Embankments at many places have been breached along the Mahanadi river and its tributaries, major one being at coastal Jagatsinghpur district.

“The officials of the water resources department are busy in closing the embankments on a war footing," the SRC said after a discussion with the engineers of the flood control and management.

Measures for 'zero casualty'

Patnaik reviewed the flood situation and asked officials to ensure “zero casualty" in the calamity, besides immediate repair of roads and communication channels affected by the flood, Jena said.

“The CM has said that every life is precious for the state and all efforts should be made to ensure that not a single life is lost in the calamity," the SRC said.

CM Patnaik directed evacuation of people living in low laying areas and from places inundated by the flood water, putting collectors of 10 districts on high alert.

He also asked the chief secretary and special relief commissioner to ensure that the rescue and relief teams remain at the affected and vulnerable areas.

Rescue and relief personnel have been deployed heavily in vulnerable areas with 9 teams each of National Disaster Response Force and Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force. 44 teams of the fire service have been engaged in relief and rescue operation.

The government has authorized district collectors to close schools and educational institutions in the flood hit areas and to undertake evacuation of people from all the vulnerable pockets.

The districts are also given freedom to provide food and other relief materials to the affected people, Jena said.

The forecast

Monitoring the inflow of water, meteorological department in its latest bulletin said Jharbandh in Bargarh recorded 53 mm of rain over a 24 hour period till 8.30 am on Tuesday. Moderate downpour also lashed parts of Boudh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sambalpur and Subarnapur districts.

As per the weatherman forecast, formation of a fresh low pressure over northern Bay of Bengal by Friday could bring in widespread and heavy rain in the state from Thursday.

With inputs from PTI.

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