Rescuers battle to reach people as death toll in floods in eastern India climbs to 55
BHUBANESWAR, India (AP) – Relief workers battled swirling currents to reach medicines and aid to millions of people in the flood-ravaged eastern state of Orissa and government officials admitted Sunday that earlier efforts to do so had failed.
Waters from overflowing rivers prevented medical teams from reaching many remote villages as reports of diarrhea, jaundice and malaria poured in to the control room set up by the state government to oversee relief and rescue efforts.
On Sunday, the death toll from the floods climbed to 55, although unofficial sources, including local newspapers, put the figure at 70. More than 8 million people have been affected by the floods which have left millions homeless this week. Nearly one million people are living on the rooftops of their homes or on trees.
Medical teams had not been able to reach many of the marooned villages even one week after they were cut off by the rising waters of the Mahanadi river and its many tributaries that traverse the state, said M.M. Das, a doctor in charge of the health control room in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.
Two members of a health team were killed Sunday when their boat capsized in the Bhargavi river in Puri, one of the worst-hit districts of the state. Five members of the same team were rescued by a navy boat.
Health officials say jaundice, diarrhea and malaria were breaking out among people rescued from the flood waters and now camping in temporary housing in school, college and other government buildings.
At least 1,925 cases of diarrhea had been reported, Das said.
Thousands of villagers had pitched tents — a sheet of plastic propped up on bamboo poles– along the highways, the only high ground above the water, after entire villages were submerged by flood waters.
Six air force helicopters continued to drop food packets, medicines, and drinking water pouches throughout the day and soldiers helped the state administration with the relief and rescue efforts.
Although the waters of the Mahanadi, the biggest river in Orissa, and its tributaries were receding, other rivers like the Bramhani and Baitarani were rising. The government, on Sunday, warned of a new round of inundation in some districts.
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