At least six people have died and 71 others are hospitalised due to diarrhoea after drinking contaminated water from open sources in several villages in Odisha's Rayagada district, officials said on Saturday.

The incident led to protests in the assembly, with the Opposition Congress demanding a statement from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The deaths were reported in different villages in Kashipur block in the last three days.

A team of 11 doctors visited the affected villages and collected water and blood samples and sent those for examination.

The water-borne disease was first reported in Maliguda village, and later in Dudukabahal, Tikiri, Gobrighati, Routghati and Jalakhura villages, officials said.

Many others in Dangasil, Renga, Hadiguda, Maikanch, Sankarada and Kuchipadar villages are also down with diarrhoea and are undergoing treatment at home, they said.

46 people under treatment

Of the 71 people who have been hospitalised after drinking water from open sources, 46 are under treatment in Tikiri Public Health Centre (PHC), 14 in Kashipur Community Health Centre and 11 girls of an ashram school in Thatibar PHC.

One patient was shifted to SLN Medical College, Koraput after his condition deteriorated.

Rayagada District Collector Swadha Dev Singh along with Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Dr Lalmohan Routray visited the medical establishments and enquired about the health condition of the patients.

The CDMO said that water in an open well in Maliguda, where the disease was first reported, was found to be contaminated and authorities concerned have been asked to arrange for alternate sources of water for the villages.

Water sources in other villages will also be identified and treated, the official said.

Kashipur block has a history of water-borne diseases. Nearly 100 people died due to diarrhoea in 2008, while Cholera had also claimed around 100 lives in 2010.

The issue was raised during the Zero Hour in the Assembly, with Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra demanding a statement from Patnaik.

He alleged that the deceased could also have contracted diarrhoea after eating wild fruits due to lack of foodgrains.

Congress whip Taraprasad Bahinipati claimed that many families are denied foodgrains under PDS as they have lost their ration cards.

Congress MLAs rushed to the well of the House demanding a ruling from the Speaker seeking a statement from the chief minister.

Unable to run the Assembly, Speaker B K Arukha first adjourned the House for 10 minutes and later for 15 minutes.

Congress' agitation, however, ended after the speaker asked the parliamentary affairs minister to issue a statement in the House on the incident on Monday.