Panic struck Morbi and Maliya towns and people ran for shelter after rumours flew fast that Machhu-II dam had developed a breach even as normalcy started returning to flood-hit Morbi, Surendranagar and Rajkot districts in Saurashtra region on Monday.
Rumours started circulating on social media at around noon warning Machhu-II dam had developed a breach and that downstream Morbi and Maliya towns may be flooded. As the rumour mills started, shops closed down in Morbi and Maliya towns and people started running helter-skelter in search of safer places in the two towns.
“At around 1 pm, somebody shouted in a shrill voice that Machhu dam had been washed away. In no time, customers rushed out of our office. Minutes later, Morbi municipality sent public announcement systems saying the dam breach news was a rumour. But the chaos brought back tragic memories of the 1979 disaster,” said Raju Gami, a clerk in Morbi head post office.
However, district administration soon responded by getting electronic media and social media platforms to quell the rumours. The authorities also sent vehicles mounted with public announcement system around Morbi to tell people that news of Machhu-II dam breach was a rumour only.
“It was purely a rumour. The dam had inflow of merely 5,050 cusec which was easily manageable opening four gates of the dam to release equal about of water. We got help from electronic media to dispel the rumour. We also sent vehicles with public announcement systems to pacify people. There was panic for a while but it got over within half-an-hour or so,” Morbi district collector Ishwar Patel told The Indian Express.
Machhu-II dam is located around 12 km upstream of Morbi town, the district headquarters of Morbi. The town and dozens of other villages were devastated after the dam was washed away following torrential rain in year 1979. Maliya town was flooded as Machhu river swelled following very heavy rain in upstream Chotila taluka of Surendranagar district and Wankaner taluka of Morbi district.
Meanwhile, situation improved in Maliya on Monday as water level of Machhu river receded. “There is no flooding in Maliya town today. Work to remove slush is going on. Mobile health unit with doctor is also there and we are supplying drinking water through tankers. People who had been shifted to temporary relief shelters have returned to their homes,” the collector further said.
Patel added that a stretch of National Highway 8 which had been washed away near Maliya was repaired and it was opened to vehicular traffic late on Sunday night. However, railway track which was damaged in the area still was under repair and therefore rail traffic on Viramgam Maliya section remained disrupted for third consecutive day.
“The Khirai pumping station is still under water. However, power supply to the pumping station was restored today and pumping machinery from Rajkot has also reached. They will start pumping water soon and the main pimping station is expected to be operational from Tuesday onward,” the Morbi collector added.
The Khirai pumping station lifts Narmada water from Maliya branch canal and pumps it to Kutch and parts of Saurashtra for drinking purpose.
Meanwhile, 150 people who were evacuated from low laying areas in Vadhwan town of Surendranagar district continued to be in two relief shelters for the third day on Monday. “There are 100 people in the relief shelter at B.Ed College and 50 others at Ladkibai High School. They were evacuated from the banks of Bhogavo river and it is not safe as yet for their return. However, there is no flooding in the town now,” said Pravinchandra Sejpal, mamlatdar of Vadhwan.
In Rajkot, the Nana Matra village remained isolated for the third day after it was flooded by swelling Bhadar river and causeways connecting it were damaged. “Mota Matra is still isolated but other 16 district roads which were damaged have been repaired,” said Rajkot collector Vikrant Pandey.
Incidentally, a woman and her newborn were airlifted from Nana Matra minutes after she delivered the child on Sunday. Another pregnant woman from the same village was also airlifted later after she went into labour a few minutes later.