As flood levels in western Maharashtra begin to recede, the government is shifting its focus to relief and rehabilitation work to assist lakhs of people affected by the worst flood the region has seen in recent times.
The toll touched 40 on Sunday, as rescuers recovered five more bodies from last week’s boat capsize in Sangli district. Five more deaths were reported from affected areas, said Deepak Mhaisekar, Pune Divisional Commissioner. The government said 4,14,000 people are sheltered in transit camps.
Even as the rain eased on Sunday and water levels are gradually receding in the worst-hit areas of Sangli and Kolhapur, officials admitted that some places still continue to remain inaccessible. As many as 203 roads and 94 bridges are still closed to traffic, officials said. An initial assessment revealed that 2,177 zilla parishad schools have been damaged.
“There is an improvement in the overall situation. Water levels have begun to recede. But we expect that it would take at least another couple of days for the floodwaters recede completely,” said Relief and Rehabilitation Secretary Kishor Raje Nimbalkar.
According to official information, the water level in Kolhapur on Sunday was 50.1 feet, while in Sangli it was 54.1 feet. The levels had risen to 57 feet in Sangli last week. In Kolhapur’s Shirol, the situation continues to be grim with water level still at 62.9 feet.
About 535 relief camps are now in operation, said Nimbalkar. As on Sunday, Maharashtra has recorded 802.7 mm of rainfall, which is over 109 per cent of its normal seasonal average.
The threat of disease outbreaks is now a primary concern, with carcasses in floodwaters and contaminated drinking water sources raising fears of health risks. Local health workers have been asked to survey the risk of water-borne diseases, an official said. “We are stocking essential medical supplies. The focus is on ensuring cleanliness and medicine supply,” said Nimbalkar.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis undertook an urgent review meeting. He directed officials to airlift emergency medicines, wherever required, and put medical teams on stand by. Directives were also issued to undertake cleanliness campaigns in the affected areas.
Further, Fadnavis directed engineers to restore damaged water supply lines on a war footing once the waters recede. He also ordered the restoration of essential services such as power, fuel, telecommunication and transport links on a priority. Norms for floating tenders are expected to be relaxed.
With 762 villages affected by the flood, damage to power supply lines is a major concern. The CM empowered local officials to procure new transformers wherever necessary.
Meanwhile, ceding to Opposition’s demands, Fadnavis issued instructions to immediately distribute Rs 5,000 to flood-hit families in cash. The rest will be deposited in their bank accounts.
He also asked officials to propose construction of elevated roads on expressways and gave an in-principle approval to a proposal for expanding operations of the existing air strip at Kawlapur in Sangli.
Mumbai civic chief in Sangli
Mumbai Municipal Commiss-ioner Praveen Pardeshi on Sunday left for Sangli to oversee relief and rehabilitation operations. Pardeshi, formerly additional chief secretary to Fadnavis, had played a stellar role in relief operations during the Latur earthquake in 1993, and is known in bureaucratic circles for his expertise in disaster management operations.