Odisha cyclone victims clash with cops, 29 held

Bhubaneswar, Oct 26 : As many as 29 people were arrested Saturday after they blocked a national highway, along with hundreds of others, and clashed with police to demand immediate relief for victims of cyclone Phailin, an official said.

More than 400 victims of the cyclone blocked national highway five near Ugratara in Khurda district. The highway was blocked about 55 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, Friday evening, for more than two hours.

A majority of protestors were women, agitated by the tardiness of relief operations.

The protestors pelted stones, set fire to a multi-utility vehicle and obstructed Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) personnel engaged in relief and rescue operations, district Superintendent of Police D.N. Gochayat told IANS.

The stone-pelting occurred as police attempted to force them to clear the road, the police official said.

Policemen used batons to disperse the mob, Gochayat said, adding that 29 people who resisted the attempts of the police to clear the road were taken into custody.

One of the protest leaders said about 30 people, including some women, sustained injuries after being beaten by police.

He alleged that the administration evacuated hundreds of villagers ahead of cyclone Phailin, but only provided relief for three days at nearby cyclone shelters.

He said no relief was provided after villagers returned home. As heavy rain lashed the region after the cyclone, the plight of villagers worsened.

The severe tropical cyclone Phailin in the Bay of Bengal devastated lives and damaged properties in more than 17 districts of Odisha. It made landfall Oct 12 night near Gopalpur in the state's southern Ganjam district, which took the brunt of the cyclone and subsequent floods.

The toll of lives in the cyclone and floods in the state was limited to 53, thanks to timely warning systems and massive evacuation programmes. However, the heavy rain that followed the cyclonic storm and flooding has left people marooned and helpless.

In the 1999 cyclone in Odisha, nearly 10,000 people died.

The state has been witnessing a second round of floods after a nearly week-long spell of heavy rain, induced by low pressure over the Bay of Bengal. Relief and rehabilitation work too has been affected because of weather conditions.

--IANS (Posted on 26-10-2013)

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