BHUBANESWAR, India, Aug 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Floods triggered by days of heavy rain in eastern India have killed 45 people and left more than 300,000 people cut off from basic services, government officials said on Monday.
More than 300 villages in Odisha state have been left surrounded by flood water, after major rivers such as the Mahanadi, burst their banks submerging large swathes of farmland, immersing roads and sweeping away bridges.
Disaster management officials said hundreds of boats had been deployed to take dry food rations, plastic sheets and other relief items to the cut-off villages located in 23 of Odisha's 30 districts.
"People have taken shelter on highland and they are safe. They cannot go back home immediately because water still remains," Odisha's special relief commissioner P.K. Mohapatra told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Mohapatra said more than 100,000 people had made their way to government relief camps where they were receiving shelter and cooked meals.
In the worst-hit coastal districts of Kendrapada and Puri thousands of villagers have taken refuge on river embankments, in high-rise buildings and cyclone shelters.
Television footage showed people including women, children and the elderly sitting on an embankment under a make-shift tent made of torn polythene.
"We have been living here for last several days without adequate food and shelter," said 32-year-old Ashok Sahu from Gharachhia village in Puri district, with hundreds of others.
The latest floods in Odisha have damaged more than 30,000 houses, killed livestock, and destroyed over 3.2 million hectares of rice paddy, officials said. Around 3.5 million people in the state are estimated to have had their lives disrupted.
Officials said the rain has stopped in many districts and that they expected water levels to begin receding.
But aid agency ACT Alliance said the situation remained bleak for the flood-hit villagers, with another depression forming in the Bay of Bengal within the next 48 hours, bringing more heavy rains.
"Agriculture is the primary source of income and livelihood in these districts," said the charity ACT Alliance in a statement. "The current situation is grim and extensive damage to the standing crops, particularly rice, and houses are feared."
India experiences monsoon rains from June to September, which are vital for its agriculture. But the rains frequently affect millions of people – devastating crops, destroying homes, and sparking outbreaks of diseases like diarrhoea.
((Additional reporting and writing by Nita Bhalla))