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Floods threaten large swathes of north India

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 10:55:32 PM, IANS

Hindus, Muslims pray together to keep floods away

In a rare show of harmony, Muslims recited the Quran while the Hindus gathered for special prayers on the banks of river Indus near Shahdad Kot town of Pakistan’s  »

New Delhi: Lakhs of people across several states in north India, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar, were affected as floodwaters entered homes and inundated vast swathes of agricultural land following incessant rain.

Major rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna and Satluj were in spate, threatening to overflow their banks and prompting authorities in various states to issue an alert.

Many areas in the Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar belt were threatened as river waters rose alarmingly and officials rushed in to evacuate people most at danger.

In Uttar Pradesh, at least seven eastern districts were affected as water levels rose in the Ganga, Yamuna, Ghaghra, Saryu and Rapti rivers. Lakhs of people in Ballia, Bahraich, Maharajganj, Lakhimpur Kheri, Gonda, Barabanki and Faizabad were hit and many had to be evacuated.

Thousands of hectares of agricultural land were flooded, officials in Lucknow said, adding that the PAC (provincial armed constabulary) was being pressed into service.

"The government has ordered necessary steps to be taken for evacuation of flood affected population to safer areas," said an official, adding that Chief Minister Mayawati had issued a warning that no laxity on the part of any official dealing with the flood situation would be tolerated.

In Bihar, floodwaters entered over 200 villages and threatened to inundate many others. The most vulnerable areas were Bettiah, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga districts.

Besides, dozens of villages in Bagaha district were inundated after embankments were breached at several places and water levels rose in all the major rivers following heavy rains in the state and the catchment areas of Nepal.

"All the rivers are in full spate following heavy rains. Some rivers may cross the red mark late Wednesday or Thursday," an official said.

"Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has directed officials to remain extra vigilant as the eastern afflux bund, which breached at Kushaha in 2008, is again under pressure due to heavy discharge in Kosi," an official in the Chief Minister's Office here told IANS.

In 2008, more than three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course. It was said to be the worst flood in Bihar in 50 years.

The situation was similar in Punjab, where many towns and villages in low lying districts were on alert as the water in the Satluj hovered close to the danger mark. At least 15 villages in Anandpur Sahib in Ropar district turned into a virtual sea, leading to thousands leaving their homes

The level at the Bhakra Dam was increasing by one ft a day - the water level can reach the maximum height of 1,680 feet in Bhakra Dam. By Tuesday evening, it had touched 1,673.55 feet.

In neighbouring Haryana, a fresh breach emerged in the Yamuna in Karnal district, leading to the flooding of many acres of farmland.

The Yamuna threatened the national capital as well as the city of the Taj Mahal, Agra. In Delhi, a key bridge over the Yamuna linking the capital with its populous eastern district was shut Wednesday as the river waters rose menacingly, causing huge traffic jams.

Authorities said the Yamuna was flowing above the danger mark for the fifth consecutive day, with officials warning that its level was expected to rise further.

The water level has touched 205.92 metres and could go up, an official of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department told IANS here.

The river had crossed the danger level of 204.8 metres late Friday.

The threat of floods also loomed large over Agra with authorities sounding a danger alert and advising people to move out as the water level was rising every hour.

"As the rain continues in Punjab and Haryana, we expect Yamuna to touch the danger mark," a Water Works official said.

Water has entered fields in Bateshwar, in Vrindavan and parts of Mathura district.




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