Fadnavis SOS to Rajnath, Karnataka on flood crisis (Lead)

Mumbai, Aug 6 (IANS) As the flood situation turned grim in Maharashtra's Kolhapur and surrounding areas, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called up Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Karnataka Chief Minster B.S. Yediyurappa, requesting help for the lakhs of the affected people, officials said here on Tuesday.

Fadnavis requested Rajnath Singh to help coordinate and expedite flood rescue and relief efforts through agencies like the National Disaster Response Force, the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard and others in the worst-hit Kolhapur and Sangli districts.

Earlier, he also spoke with his Karnataka counterpart Yediyurappa and urged him to discharge water from the Almatti Dam which can ease the situation for Maharashtra. He has been assured of a positive action, said an official from the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office (CMO).

Fadnavis, currently in Yavatmal district for his ongoing 'Mahajanadesh Yatra', reviewed the flood situation in the state's western and southern parts, and discussed the issue with Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta.

He also announced that he was breaking the Yatra for a day to return to Mumbai and monitor the flood situation in the state's southern parts.

Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara and their surroundings have been lashed with heavy rains virtually non-stop since the past five days leading to water-logging and a flood-like situation in many cities, towns and villages.

Deputy Collector of Kolhapur Sanjay Shinde said so far, over 9,000 people from the district have been evacuated and shifted to safer locations.

"We are awaiting help from other specialized agencies. An IAF helicopter from Mumbai reached Kolhapur this afternoon, but could not land due to heavy rain, poor visibility and strong winds, and hence returned. We expect it to return tomorrow (on Wednesday)," Shinde told IANS.

Besides, disaster management authorities said that another 10,000 plus have been rescued to safer locations from Pune, Sangli and Satara and more evacuation operations are in progress.

Officials estimate over 50,000 people may be directly or indirectly hit by the floods in urban and rural centres in these districts as rains continued to batter the region since the past five days.

A Coast Guard spokesperson in Mumbai said that rescue operations are on in Kolhapur, Sangli and Karnataka's Dharwad.

A Coast Guard helicopter is currently rescuing people in the inundated area of Kolhapur, while teams with rubber boats have been despatched to evacuate people from submerged areas of Kumata and Kaiga (Karnataka).

According to latest status reports, the Panchganga River is flowing above danger levels, while electricity generation had to be stopped temporarily at the overflowing Radhanagari Dam.

Thousands of people in several villages in Shirol, Hatkanangale, Chikhali, Ambewadi have been severely hit besides the erstwhile royal city of Kolhapur, and normal life completely paralysed as incessant rains continued on Tuesday.

Two teams of the NDRF are coordinating rescue, shifting of marooned people from various areas, while Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard are also helping out the efforts with helicopters and expert personnel.

So far, more than 20,000 people have been evacuated from some of the affected regions of the four districts (Pune, Satara, Kolhapur, Sangli) and moved to safer locations.

A NDRF team has been deployed in Sangli and another is en route to help the rescue operations, even as Fadnavis is in continuous touch with different agencies.

The state government is air-lifting six more teams and navy boats to Kolhapur on Tuesday, while four boats of the NDRF are being dispatched from Pune to Sangli, said the CMO.

The busy Pune-Bengaluru Highway has been shut for all traffic as a precautionary measure in view of the torrential rain, besides other state and district roads from where incidents of landslide and boulder crashes have been reported, though there are no casualties.

Pune's Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaiskar said that four of the five western Maharashtra districts - Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara - have already surpassed more than 100 percent of the season's total rainfall.

However, the fifth district in the division, the parched Solapur lagged behind, notching only 78 percent rain so far and its main reservoir, the Ujani Dam has collected barely 50 percent water so far.

In the past 24 hours, the highest rainfall of 40 cms was recorded in the temple town of Trimbakeshwar (Nashik), followed by the state's popular hill station of Mahalabeshwar (Satara) at 38 cms.

Minor landslides and boulder crashes in south-eastern parts of the Western Ghats compelled the Central Railway to short-terminate, short-originate, divert several trains bound for South Indian destinations, while the 17031 Mumbai-Hyderabad Express has been cancelled on Tuesday.

According to the IMD Mumbai, the Doppler radars in Mumbai and Goa on the west coast indicate active monsoons conditions prevailing over entire South Konkan to Karnataka coast, south central Maharashtra, with Kolhapur and Satara showing heavy clouds, and monsoons will continue in these regions over the next few days.

--IANS

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