India – Flooding Affects Thousands in Odisha

Days of heavy rain, rising rivers and dam releases have caused widespread flooding in the state of Odisha in eastern India, where authorities report 26 districts affected.

Flooding along the Devi River in Astaranga, Puri district, Odisha September 2021. Photo: Soumya Ranjan Biswal

Many parts of Odisha experienced heavy rainfall from around 13 September, brought by a Low Pressure Area over the Bay of Bengal. In a 24 hour period to 13 September, Puri recorded 343 mm of rain, Bhubaneswar 200 mm and Paradeep 221. The following day the heavy rain moved to further inland where Angul recorded 221 mm. From 14 to 15 September Sundergarh recorded 116 mm of rain.

The rain caused several rivers in the state to swell or break their banks. India’s Central Water Commission reported the Subarnarekha in Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts surpassed the danger mark from 16 September. The Baitarni river in Bhadrak district and the Jalka river in Baleshwar district also rose above the danger mark. Local observers reported some flooding along the Devi river in parts of Puri district.

Gates of the Hirakud Dam near Sambalpur in the north of the state were opened on 17 September to release pressure brought by rising levels of the Mahanadi river. Authorities said this caused flooding in low-lying areas downstream.

According to the Disaster Management Division (DMD) in India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, as of 19 September flooding had affected over 2.7 million people across 6,129 villages of 26 districts in Odisha.

Six teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), along with teams from the Odisha Disaster Response Force, have been deployed to the affected areas for rescue and relief operation. A total of 24,127 people have safely evacuated affected areas.

Flooding has caused significant material damage and loss of life. DMD reported at least 15 fatalities due to drowning or building collapse. A total of 9,280 houses have been damaged, along with 172,000 hectare of crops.

Parts of the neighbouring state of West Bengal have also seen severe flooding in the last few days.

Almost 1.5 million people evacuated their homes in India ahead of Cyclone Yaas making landfall in Odisha on 26 May 2021.

Flooding along the Devi River in Astaranga, Puri district, Odisha September 2021. Photo: Soumya Ranjan Biswal