The Chennai-Kolkata National Highway-16 remained cut off for traffic between Nellore and Vijayawada as was the Chennai grand trunk rail route.

People carrying their belongings through an inundated street amid the Andhra floodsImage: PTI
news Andhra floods Monday, November 22, 2021 - 08:37

In Andhra Pradesh, hundreds of vehicles and people were stranded, traffic was either closed or suspended in arterial highways and over 100 trains cancelled snapping rail-road link between southern and other parts of the country on Sunday, November 21, as the Penna river in spate caused heavy destruction. The death toll in rain-related incidents in different districts of Andhra Pradesh touched 33 as more bodies were retrieved from the flooded streams and at least 12 people were reported missing.

The Chennai-Kolkata National Highway-16 remained cut off for traffic between Nellore and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh as was the Chennai grand trunk rail route severing the all-important link between the southern and eastern and northern parts of the country. According to the South Central Railway, more than 100 express trains were cancelled because of the damage caused to the railway tracks near Nellore and 29 more diverted.

The Chennai-Mumbai rail route that runs through Kadapa district also remained shut as the tracks got washed away near Nandalur. A fresh flood scare, meanwhile, started in temple-town Tirupati and surrounding villages as a breach started developing in the Rayalacheruvu lake. The Chittoor district authorities have directed people living in 20 villages to immediately move to safer locations.

Senior IAS officer P S Pradyumna, deputed to Chittoor district to oversee flood relief operations, told reporters, "The situation is grim, so we have forewarned the people to move to rehabilitation camps. While the tank capacity is just 0.2 tmc ft, it is now filled with 0.9 tmc ft."

Every effort was being made to plug the breach and avoid any major calamity, he said. In total, the government said 2,007 houses were damaged in four flood-hit districts, the highest being 911 in Chittoor, causing a loss of Rs 5.18 crore. The loss on account of cattle and livestock was Rs 2.47 crore in these districts.

The state government ordered free distribution of 25 kg rice, one kg red gram dal, one litre of edible oil, a kg each of potatoes and onion to the flood-affected families.

According to government data, the rain and flood-related death count was 20 in Kadapa, seven in Anantapur, four in Chittoor and two in SPS Nellore. In Nellore district, the body of an unidentified person was found near the Somasila reservoir. In Kadapa district, where 12 people were missing, crops on hundreds of acres were destroyed, heads of cattle washed away and tens of houses in villages were reduced to rubble as flash floods due to a breach of the Annamayya project's earthen bund on Cheyyeru river caused havoc.

In Kadapa city, a mother and child, who were trapped on the second floor of a building were rescued in the nick of time by rescue personnel, just before the three-storied building folded like a pack of cards in the wee hours. Floodwater gushing out from the Veligallu reservoir led to the collapse of a bridge on river Papagni cutting off the road link between Kadapa and Anantapur districts.

As floods caused devastation, the Chennai-Kolkata National Highway-16 had to be closed down for traffic in SPS Nellore district following a heavy breach at Padugupadu. The State Disaster Management Authority said more than two lakh cusecs of floodwater flowed out of the Somasila reservoir in SPS Nellore district, leading to the deluge.

This caused a breach at another location, Kovuru as well hitting the National Highway-16 route. Consequently, traffic on the NH-16 between Nellore and Vijayawada was suspended, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded for kilometres on either side. The National Highways officials, along with the SPS Nellore district administration, got into action to repair the damaged stretch of the NH and restore it to traffic as early as possible.

Hundreds of passengers were stuck in the Nellore RTC bus station as bus services were disrupted. Vehicular traffic coming from Srikalahasti was stopped and diverted, officials said. Kadapa district villages, including Togurupeta and Mandapalli had to take the burnt in the wake of the devastation due to the breach in the Annamayya project's earthen bund.

Annamayya is a medium irrigation project with a gross capacity of only 2.24 tmc ft on Cheyyeru, a tributary of Penna river, in Rajampet constituency. It caters to an ayacut of 22,500 acres, besides fulfilling the drinking water needs of 140 habitations.

The Pincha project upstream breached, letting out all floodwater into Annamayya while water from Seshachalam too came gushing in because of very heavy rainfall, resulting in an overall discharge of over two lakh cusecs. That pushed Cheyyeru river into spate, inundating at least 10 villages downstream in Rajampet and Nandaluru mandals, and leaving widespread destruction in its wake.

"It was nothing but gross mismanagement on the part of the administration. Didn't they know about the flood when there was such heavy rain? Why were we not even alerted about the coming danger before it destroyed us?" angry villagers of Mandapalli and Togurupeta questioned.

Except for some kind-hearted volunteers, the administration did not come to their help in any way, they lamented. "Ours is the first village right under Annamayya project. We lost our houses, cattle, belongings and everything. Some of our villagers were killed. There is no place for us to go," the surviving residents of Togurupeta, a hamlet of about 500 people, said.

The temple of the local goddess, which somehow remained intact, has now turned into the only shelter zone for the hapless villagers. Mandapalli presented a heartrending sight. Two families were completely wiped out as seven people in all were killed in the flood fury. Another family lost two people.

Kadapa district Collector Vijaya Rama Raju told PTI that the dam breach was the major factor that caused such a major calamity. "The river course changed but the dam breach was what caused the real destruction. We still moved some 600 people to safety," he said. "Yes, it was a major calamity, the scale of which could not be imagined," Raju added.

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