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A massive evacuation drive has been launched in low-lying areas of Odisha's Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts.

The evacuation comes as water in Subarnarekha and Baitarani – the two major rivers flowing through the region – breached the danger mark at many places,  officials told news agency PTI.

As many as 58 rescue teams comprising personnel of the NDRF, ODRAF and Fire Service were deployed in Balasore and Mayurbahnj districts, Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep K Jena said, adding similar arrangements were also being made in adjoining districts of Bhadrak and Jajpur.

"Involve functionaries of the Panchayati Raj System, women self-help groups and others concerned in evacuating people," Jena said in a message to the district collectors of Balasore and Mayurbhanj.

The water level in all the rivers located in north Odisha is in spate due to heavy rains caused by a deep depression over the Bay of Bengal, and subsequent flood water release from Jharkhand.

According to Jena, nearly 6 lakh cusec (cubic feet per second) of water were discharged by Jharkhand from Galudih barrage on the Subarnarekha river system, following a downpour.

Most rivers flowing through the northern region of Odisha into the Bay of Bengal originate in neighbouring Jharkhand. Four blocks in the coastal Balasore district – Baliapal, Bhograi, Basta and Jaleswar – were identified as the most vulnerable to the latest flooding.

The Balasore district administration has decided to evacuate at least 1.2 lakh people by Monday noon when the peak flood water of the Subarnarekha is likely to pass through Raj Ghat.

“Evacuation of people is going on in full swing. The cluster level officers are in the field to coordinate efforts," the Balasore district magistrate said in a tweet.

The rivers like Subarnarekha, Budhabalang, Jalaka and Baitarani swelled following Friday’s rains induced by a deep depression and subsequent discharge of water from Galudih barrage in Jharkhand.

On Sunday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik delegated the powers of a special relief commissioner to the collector of Balasore district so that the local administration could be more effective. A helicopter was also placed at his disposal to deal with any emergency.

Odisha is already reeling under the impact of moderate floods in the Mahanadi river system following incessant rainfall, which has affected above 7 lakh people. Nearly 5 lakh are still marooned in 763 villages, according to government estimates.

Rains and flood-related incidents have so far claimed six lives. Two bodies were recovered in Kuchinda area of Sambalpur district on Saturday, while four people, including two minor girls, were killed in a wall collapse on Friday night.

In a bid to discourage people from clicking selfies or driving vehicles in dangerous spots risking lives, the government in flood-hit Odisha on Sunday said they should not underestimate the power of flowing water.

The warning came after two persons were killed while driving a vehicle which was swept by the swirling water of a river in Sambalpur district.

“I am quoting a dialogue of a Hindi film with little modification. In the film, the hero says ‘don’t underestimate the power of the common man’. I will like to say, do not underestimate the power of flowing water," Development Commissioner P K Jena told reporters.

There were signs of relief, however, as rains have subsided in the upper catchment area of the Mahanadi river, said B K Mishra, chief engineer in the department of water resources. There is an improvement in the flood situation in the Mahanadi delta, he said, adding it was expected to get better in the next couple of days.

The India Meteorology Department said the deep depression has now weakened into a depression over northwest Chhattisgarh and adjoining northeast Madhya Pradesh & southeast Uttar Pradesh.

However, the latest forecast by the IMD said that Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal, Kandhamal, Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Odisha are likely to experience light to moderate rainfall or thundershower from August 23. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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