Lakhs of people were marooned as Orissa on Saturday braced up to a grim flood situation as major rivers, including Mahanadi, caused at least 22 breaches as the army stood by to assist in rescue and relief operation.
Surging waters in the swollen Mahanadi caused 22 breaches in embankments in the complex river system in the deltaic plains as more water was gushing into the Hirakud reservoir in western Orissa, official sources said.
As many as 46 of the 64 sluices of the Hirakud dam had been opened to discharge over 6.93 lakh cusecs as the districts of Angul, Kendrapara, Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur faced the deluge.
Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Manmohan Samal said that breaches on the embankments of the Mahanadi and its branches in the delta have affected over 10 lakh people in 15 districts.
While three breaches had occurred on the Mahanadi embankment, the flood waters had broken through the embankments of several of the river's branches. Five breaches had occurred in the Chitrotpala river followed by two each in Devi and Luna and one each in Bhargabi, Kandala, Kathajodi, Kushabhadra, Kanei and Biluakhai.
Water resources department engineers were maintaining constant vigil on the 'Daleighai' embankment on the Devi river in Jagatsinghpur district.
This embankment, which had breached in 1955 and 1982, was the last protective barrier for a thickly populated area in the district.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the flood situation at a meeting, is expected to make an aerial survey of the flood hit areas.
The government had confirmed seven flood-related deaths while unofficial reports put the figure at 13. Around 4000 villages spread over 15 districts were ravaged by the current floods which caused extensive damage to property and standing crops besides taking thousands of cattleheads, sources said, adding about 8,000 houses were damaged due to the deluge.
Facing the wrath of Mahanadi and Brahmani, Kendrapara seemed to be worst-hit trying to cope with at least six breaches.
Engineers at the Hirakud dam had to open the sluices to cope with the huge inflow into the reservoir from Chhatisgarh, while water resources department experts were closely monitoring the situation.
The difficulty in releasing more water from the Hirakud arose from the huge discharge into the Mahanadi by the Tel river following heavy rains in its lower catchment areas.
However, there had been a marginal reduction in the discharge level at Munduli near Cuttack to 15.72 lakh cusec from 15.81 lakh cusec recorded earlier, sources said.
Inflow of water into Hirakud reservoir was recorded at 6,93,452 cusec at noon and an equal volume was being drained out, sources said, adding the dam which had a capacity of impounding water upto 630 feet was nearly full.
Alarmed over the situation, the state government had asked the army to stand by for relief and rescue operation besides urging Chhattisgarh to stop releasing water from the Ravishankar Barrage to prevent a complete deluge.
Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force have been provided by the centre for rescue and relief operation.
Besides the Mahanadi, the state's biggest river, other major rivers like Baitarani, Brahmani, Rushikulya and Vamsadhara were also in spate.
Around 40,000 people in seven districts have been evacuated to safer places as 14 out of the 30 districts in the state had been hit.
Thousands of people have left their homes to take shelter at safer places -- flood and cyclone shelters, schools and colleges, roads and embankments -- in the coastal districts.
Sixty five free kitchens had been opened to provide them food, sources said.
Medical teams were kept ready and adequate medicines, halogen tablets and water pouches had been stored for distribution. If required, post-graduate medical college students would be pressed into service in the affected areas, they said.
The government has announced that relief would be provided for seven days in the flood-affected areas.