Large areas across Punjab and Haryana on Wednesday remained affected by the flood waters which have submerged crops and marooned villagers even though water levels in swollen rivers were receding, officials said. In Delhi, the Yamuna was still above the danger level, but not rising any more.
Punjab has declared a national calamity, while Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar carried out an aerial survey of the affected areas in his state.
In Delhi, the Yamuna continued to flow above the danger mark at 206.44 metres at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, but was now showing a receding trend, a Flood Control Department official told IANS but added the situation is still “critical”.
The water level rose due to rain in northern India and discharge of water from the Hathnikund Barrage in Haryana.
Thousands of people living along the banks of the river in Delhi were moved to safer places. They have been asked to stay in the tents until the water level comes down to normal. Rail and vehicular traffic on the Old Yamuna Bridge was suspended as the water level rose.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Revenue Minister Kailash Gahlot inspected a relief camp at Usmanpur on Wednesday, while Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari, who is also a Lok Sabha MP from the city, visited the flood-affected areas of Kisan Basti, Usmanpur and Gadhi Mandu.
In Punjab, more than 300 villages, mainly in Ropar, Jalandhar and Ferozepur districts, were badly affected by flooding by the Satluj river and authorities on Wednesday deployed helicopters to airdrop food and water supplies to the residents.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had asked the Financial Commissioner to officially declare a natural calamity in the villages as a unit in order to facilitate the affected people to claim insurance against the losses.
He also asked the Finance Department to immediately clear the pending relief funds to the tune of around Rs 100 crore.
An official with the state Drainage Department said the overall situation in the Beas and Ravi rivers was under control though danger continued to lurk in areas adjacent to the Satluj river and further downstream at the Harike headworks in Ferozepur.
Meanwhile, relief teams of the Indian Army under the Western Command were carrying out rescue operations in various areas of Punjab and Haryana.
In Haryana, with the decline in rainfall activity in the past two days, the water level came down in the swollen Yamuna river, which was responsible for flooding in Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonipat districts.
A dozen villages in Yamunanagar district were flooded by the excess water released from the Hathnikund barrage, submerging thousands of acres of paddy, sugarcane and maize crops. Farmers in other districts were also hit and were demanding special ‘girdawari’ to assess the crop loss.
Meanwhile, the Bhakra Dam authority, which has been facing criticism for flooding downstream in Punjab with the release of water from the dam, on Wednesday said it has managed to handle one of the worst-ever floods in the region in 40 years.
Bhakra Beas Management Board Chairman D.K. Sharma told IANS that the release of controlled water from the dam into the Satluj river from August 16 onwards helped in keeping the dam deflection angle – where the structure is minutely displaced when reservoir is filled close to its carrying capacity – under control.
“An unprecedented hydrological event on the night of August 17 occurred when there was inflow of 311,130 cusecs. It raised the water level to 1,681.33 feet on August 19.
“Keeping in view the safety of the dam, we had to resort to controlled water release of 19,000 cusecs through the spillway from August 16, which was increased to 41,000 cusecs on August 19 in addition to the release for the power generation through the turbines,” Sharma said.
Sharma said they were monitoring the inflows into Bhakra reservoir continuously, and it has also been decided to bring down its present level by at least five feet to 1,675 feet to handle possible future floods.
The next challenge for the board is the Met prediction of the next spell of heavy rainfall from August 23.
In Maharashtra, where the toll in the Pune division has crossed 50 while another four are missing, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar and superstar Aamir Khan have contributed Rs 11 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, respectively towards the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
The worst-hit is Sangli district accounting for 26 deaths, followed by Kolhapur with 10, Satara 8, Pune 9 and Solapur one. Two people are still missing in Kolhapur and one each in Sangli and Pune districts.
In Kerala, the Pinarayi Vijayan government decided that Onam celebrations will be low key as the state is still recovering from devastating floods.
Heavy rains have battered several districts of the state since the past fortnight leaving 125 people dead and destroying property worth crores. Over 6,000 people are still staying in 86 relief camps set up in the state.
Last year, the state government was forced to cancel Onam celebrations after the state witnessed similar floods and devastation.