Bhubaneswar: With several Odisha rivers flowing above danger marks due to incessant downpour, the state government has stepped up rescue operations evacuating 17,000 people even as 23 people have died so far in rain and flood-related incidents.

“While several rivers are in spate, the situation in Jajpur and Bhadrak districts is a matter of concern now as river Baitarani is rising alarmingly flooding many areas,” Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Mohapatra said.

With a large number of villages marooned by flood waters, over 17,000 people of 5 districts — Jajpur, Cuttack, Sambalpur, Bhadrak, Keonjhar — have been evacuated so far and free kitchens set up to provide them cooked food, he said.

However, barring Jajpur and Bhadrak, the situation was likely to improve elsewhere following respite from rains that pounded many parts for the last four days, the SRC said.

The swollen Baitarani, which is rising at Akhuapada in in Jajpur district, has affected around 50,000 people in the district where over 2,000 persons have been evacuated to relief centres from marooned villages, he said.

The death toll due to rain and flood-related incidents during the current monsoon has mounted to 23, Mohapatra said, adding most of the casualties were due to drowning and wall collapse. While 14 people had died in earlier spell of rains and floods, nine deaths were reported since Saturday.

The flood situation in Bhadrak district was also grave, Mohapatra said, adding relief materials including dry food and medicines have been made available in affected areas.

Jajpur District Collector Anil Samal said three blocks of Dasrathpur, Korei and Jajpur are worst hit but the administration was fully prepared to deal with the situation.

In Bhadrak district, about 40,000 people in around nine panchayats were affected by the swirling flood waters.

The water level in Baitarani stood at 41 metres as against the danger mark of 38.36 mts at Anandpur in Keonjhar district, while the river was flowing at 20.06 mts at Akhuapada where the danger level is 17.83 mts, he said.

Similarly, river Mahanadi was flowing at 26.50 mts at  Naraj near Cuttack against the danger level of 26.41 mts, he said, adding around 9.87 lakh cusecs of water was flowing in the river at Munduli and the volume could increase.

As upper catchment areas of Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh received more rainfall, several sluice gates of Hirakud dam are likely to be opened, Mohapatra said. The water level in Hirakud reservoir stood at 624.25 ft against its full capacity of 630 ft and now 15 of its gates are open.

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