The threat of floods looms large over thousands of people in Krishna and Guntur districts of Andhra Pradesh as 10.5 lakh cusecs water was being released from the Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada on Monday. The death toll in the heavy rains in several northern districts of Karnataka increased to 194 with 25 unidentified bodies found in several places.
Already, several island villages in the Krishna estuary have been inundated, while many more in the Diviseema region, which was devastated by a cyclone in 1977, are rapidly getting submerged. As many as 30 villages upstream of the barrage are marooned since the structure is unable to discharge the massive inflows it is receiving from the Nagarjunasagar.
The river embankments will be breached and Vijayawada itself may suffer further damage if the outflow touches the 11 lakh cusec-mark but Chief Minister K. Rosaiah ruled this out as water was being released with meticulous planning and the quantum would come down to 9 lakh cusecs by Tuesday morning.
Over two lakh people have already been rendered homeless by the fresh floods.
Traffic on the Vijayawada-Hyderabad National Highway 9 has been diverted as several stretches are lying under water. Railway authorities are anxiously watching the water level downstream of the Prakasam Barrage since the Krishna is nearly touching the rail bridge connecting Vijayawada to Chennai. Nandyal town in Kurnool district continues to be cut off. The death toll in the floods, ravaging the State since October 1, now stands at 52.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Mr. Rosaiah, made an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas in Kurnool and Mahabubnagar. Mr. Rosaiah earlier sent a status report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that the preliminary estimate of the flood loss was Rs. 12,225 crore, including Rs. 10,000-crore damage to dams, roads, power infrastructure and communication. He urged the Centre to treat the disaster as a ‘national calamity of rare severity’ and release Rs. 6,000 crore as immediate assistance.
The Chief Minister thanked the Karnataka government for closing the crest gates of the Almatti reservoir and ensuring staggered releases from Narayanpur, both across the Krishna, to avoid heavy inflow into the Srisailam reservoir.
Reports reaching Bangalore indicated that while the water level in the Krishna and its tributaries, including the Tungabhadra, had substantially receded since Sunday, the State government is watching the situation closely following some reports that more rain could be expected.
Over 3.55 lakh people have been accommodated in 1,200 relief camps and provided with food, clothing and medicines.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy have been overseeing relief operations in the worst-affected districts over the last few days.
Mr. Yeddyurappa and Ms. Sonia Gandhi made a quick aerial survey of Bellary, Raichur and Bijapur districts. Mr. Yeddyurappa submitted a memorandum to the AICC president and requested her to persuade the Union government to declare the situation a “national calamity.” “An interim relief of Rs. 10,000 crore is sought from the Union government for relief and restoration of damaged infrastructure in the affected areas.”