Water recedes, but thousands still marooned in Haryana, Punjab

Chandigarh, July 9 (IANS) The water level in the flood-affected districts of Haryana and Punjab started to recede Friday but thousands of marooned people continued to suffer owing to lack of relief from government agencies, even as the toll climed to 20.

Of the 20 deaths reported so far, 15 have been in Punjab and five in Haryana, with 4-5 people missing after being washed away in both the states. Heavy rains, followed by breaches in rivers and irrigation canals in some areas of both states caused have floods since Tuesday.

Residents of the flood-hit districts of Kurukshetra, Ambala and Kaithal in Haryana and Patiala and Sangrur districts in Punjab complained about being forced to live without drinking water, food and power supply.

‘The government agencies have not been able to reach us. Are they all sleeping?,’ asked an agitated Kusum Devi of Jogna Khera village in Kurukshetra district.

Even though the leaves of all government employees in the flood-hit districts of Haryana have been cancelled to deal with the situation, the state government and district authorities are facing criticism for not carrying out flood prevention work and also lacking in response after the floods took place.

Water and power supply has not been restored in most areas of the affected districts in Haryana even after four days. But power distribution agencies in the state claimed that power supply had been restored Friday.

Officials in Ambala city, 45 km from here, said that the water had receded from most parts of the city.

With no fresh rain in the region and no new breaches in the rivers and canals, authorities heaved a sigh of relief.

However, district authorities in Punjab’s Mansa, Sangrur, Ferozepur and Moga districts have been put on high alert with rivers flowing at higher water levels.

Nearly 150 villages have been affected by floods in Punjab’s Patiala and Sangrur districts.

In Haryana, army personnel, supported by volunteers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect and other NGOs tried their best to plug the breaches in the Ghaggar river, Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal and the Hansi-Butana canal.

Officials in Kaithal district said that the breach in the Hansi-Butana canal near Tatiana village had increased from 50 feet Thursday to nearly 350 feet Friday.

Freshly sown paddy crop in over two lakh acres of fertile agricultural land has been destroyed in four days of flood fury in some districts of Haryana and Punjab – the biggest foodgrain contributing states in the country.

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda visited the flood-affected areas in the state Friday.

The army was called out in flood-affected areas of the Kurukshetra, Ambala and Kaithal districts in Haryana. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) volunteers and boats are also assisting in the rescue and relief operations.

About 100,000 acres of agriculture land in nearly 250 villages in these districts of Haryana has been affected by flood water. Areas where paddy and maize crops are grown have been affected due to stagnant flood water.

‘Our houses are under 3-4 feet of water. The authorities are not providing any help and instead, are asking us to leave the flooded areas. We cannot leave our homes, families and livestock like this,’ said farmer Swarn Singh who lives near the flood-affected Tatiana village.

Additional Principal Secretary to the Haryana Chief Minister Anuradha Gupta said: ‘Army and other authorities are trying to plug the breach in the canals.’

Traffic on National Highway 65, between Ambala and Hisar cities, continued to be affected Friday as part of the highway was washed away near Naggal village, 20 km from Ambala.

Train traffic on the busy Ambala-Delhi section was restored by railway authorities after two days. The traffic was disrupted with the tracks sinking near Shahbad town, 65 km from here. Some trains on the affected route were diverted through Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh Thursday.

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