Bhubaneswar, Oct 14 (IANS) Military helicopters Monday started air dropping food packets as heavy rain brought by cyclone Phailin triggered floods in Odisha, leaving a large number of people stranded, a state minister said.
More than 2.5 lakh people in four districts of Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, and Jajpur were marooned after flood water from nearby rivers entered homes and submerged thousands of acres of standing paddy crops, state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patro told IANS.
The Budha Balanga river was in flood and its waters Sunday entered Baripada town, the district headquarters of Mayurbhanj, inundating thousands of houses.
Many houses were under five or six feet of water, and residents clambered onto roof tops.
Similar was the situation in three other districts.
The state government Monday sent rescue and relief teams and deputed the armed forces, state and central disaster response personnel as the situation worsened in the regions hit by floods.
"Four air force helicopters have started air dropping food packets. Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Response Force (ODRF) and police personnel have been pressed into service for relief and rescue operations", he said.
A large swathe of agricultural lands and houses located in the low laying areas were also submerged in the affected districts, he said.
The very severe tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal which made landfall Saturday night near Gopalpur in Odisha's Ganjam district has left behind a trail of destruction in several coastal districts of Odisha.
The worst hit districts include Ganjam, Puri, Khordha and Gajapati.
Although damage to property was estimated at several crores of rupees, loss of human lives was minimal in comparison to the 1999 super cyclone, in which more than 10,000 died.
Officials said the latest cyclone and flooding has caused 21 deaths so far. The low casualty figure this time was because of timely evacuation of affected areas, on predictions from the weather office, officials said.
More than ten lakh people from the low laying areas of the coasts were evacuated and sheltered in safer places, hours before the cyclone hit land.
While some of those who were evacuated later returned to their homes, large numbers of people are still in relief camps and cyclone shelters, as their houses were left damaged.
According to a preliminary government estimate, the cyclone and flood has affected more than a crore people in the state. More than two lakh houses have been damaged in the worst cyclone hit Ganjam district alone.