* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
ACT Alliance Alert
Torrential Rains lash Odisha
Geneva, 7 August 2014
1. Brief description of the emergency and impact
Floods triggered by heavy rains in the past week have hit nearly 1.8 million people in Odisha, with the death toll rising to 35 according to Inter Agency Group (IAG), Odisha. The floods have affected 23 out of 30 districts in the state of Odisha, affecting 3,900 villages. There are 86 livestock also swept away due to flood. As per preliminary assessment, 208,911 hectares of land with standing crops have been submerged under water while 15,943 houses have been damaged.
Authorities had to open 44 sluice gates of the Hirakud Dam on the Mahanadi River to release excess water which caused flood situation across the state. As many as 30 small breaches occurred in embankments leaving around 830 villages marooned. Also, as many as 101 wards in 22 urban local body have also been affected by the floods. It is feared that, if the flood water increases further in the major rivers like Mahanadi, Kathjodi, Baitarani, Budhabalanga, Subarnarekha, Bargabi and their tributaries, the number of affected villages would go up. Thus, the threat of floods looms large over several coastal districts. Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has informed about a fresh depression that has formed in the Bay of Bengal and likely to cause heavy to very heavy rains in the state in next 48 hours.
2. Why is an ACT response needed?
As stated above, the flood water have affected 23 districts in the state. Agriculture is the primary source of income and livelihood in these districts. The current situation is grim and extensive damage to the standing crops, particularly rice, and houses are feared. Further rainfall, due to the fresh depression in the Bay of Bengal, might compel the state authorities to open more sluice gates to release extra water from Hirakud Dam to save it from over load, which would aggravate the situation. If so happened, the flood situation in the state would further worsen lives and livelihood of affected population for which external support may be required. Both national and state government of Odisha are vigilant to the situation, however a timely response to such a large number of villages may not be possible.
3. National and international response
As of date, 139,023 people across the state of Odisha have been already evacuated and placed them at the safer places in various locations. In order to provide food to the flood affected population, 429 free kitchens are running at different locations in the flood affected districts in the state. So far, as many as 11 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and 30 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) teams have been deployed to assist the administration in rescue and relief operations, an Official said. The defence ministry has been requested to keep two choppers on stand-by for airdropping and rescue operation if required, he also added.
4. ACT Alliance response
ACT India forum members – Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT), Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and the United Evangelical Church in India (UELCI) are assessing the situation very closely along with their national networks like Odisha Inter Agency Group and Sphere India. Both LWSIT and CASA have represented in the IAG meeting called at state capital Bhubaneswar, wherein the Chairperson of IAG reviewed the flood situation and appealed to all the humanitarian agencies to respond to this huge natural catastrophe. The situation looks grim, however should the situation so demanded, an RRF or preliminary appeal will be developed through coordinated efforts. The immediate emergency needs among flood affected families includes; dry food, dry rations, non-food items, temporary shelter materials, clothing among all sections and other daily necessities of life. The long term rehabilitation and reconstruction includes support for house construction, livelihood restoration, WASH and disaster risk reduction measures.
5. Planned activities
The ACT Alliance members have decided to intervene through the Rapid Response Fund (RRF) or a preliminary appeal should the flood situation so escalated. The initial response is likely to focus on life-saving activities followed by rehab measures.
No major constraints are foreseen yet. However, the magnitude of the disaster might prevent easy access to the affected areas since several places are cut-off from the main land.
Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jean-Daniel Birmele, Director of Finance (firstname.lastname@example.org)