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Flood situation worsens in Bihar; thousands flee

By Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna
Last updated on: August 03, 2009 13:04 IST
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The flood situation has worsened in northern Bihar's Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts as relief and rescue operations have been badly hit by continuous rains and rising water levels. The overflowing Bagmati River has submerged several villages and many villagers have been forced to leave their homes to seek a safer shelter. The river had breached its embankment on Saturday.

OverĀ four lakh people in nearly 200 villages have been affected, and the situation has been worsened by another embankment breach of Lakhendei River in Muzaffarpur on Sunday.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who undertook an aerial survey of the flood-hit area in Sitamarhi, announced a compensation package for the displaced persons on the pattern of the one made available to flood-hit victims in Kosi belts in 2008.

The chief minister, who had already ordered a joint inquiry by the Tirhut divisional commission and deputy inspector general (Muzaffarpur) into the causes leading to the Bagmati breaking its embankment, said each affected family would be provided one quintal of foodgrain and Rs 2,000 as per the calamity relief fund provisions. About one lakh people have been affected by the breach of Bagmati River.

The authorities have so far distributed 3000 plastic sheets, 150 quintals of beaten rice and jaggery among the flood-affected people in Sitamarhi district.

"Taking the flood situation seriously, the government has deployed the rescue teams of the Sashtra Seema Bal, the Border Security Force and the National Disaster Response Force for rescue operations," Bihar Disaster Management Minister Devesh Thakur told over telephone from Sitamarhi ,where he has been camping since Saturday to supervise the rescue operations .

Thakur said that more than 200 people have been rescued and many more would be rescued by Monday. "Two relief camps have been set up for the displaced families," he informed.

In spite of the state government's assurances, a district official admitted that hundreds of families have been left homeless after their villages were flooded, and they were forced to camp on embankments or higher places without shelter, food or drinking water. No food packets, drinking water or polythene sheets have been provided to them.

Reports from Sitamarhi stated that villagers continued to flee to safer places as the Bagmati River crossed its danger mark.

Official sources claimed that the floodwaters had inundated National Highway 77, which was submerged under three to four feet of water.

The state government ruled out reports of any casualties, saying, "We are not in a position to say anything about the loss of life if any district."

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe into the breach in the Bagmati embankment and hinted at stern action against the officials responsible. A high-level team comprising top officials of disaster management was sent to Sitamarhi on Saturday to take stock of the remaining embankments, their maintenance and preparation for relief and rescue operations. The team submitted its report to the chief minister on Sunday

A team of engineers is reportedly trying to breach the embankment with sand bags, stone craters and bamboo pilings.

Following heavy rains in their catchment areas in Nepal, major rivers in northern Bihar including Kosi Gandak, Budhi and Bagmati have been flowing at dangerous levels and threatening to overflow since the last four days, officials of the Flood Control Cell said.

The state government has already alerted the local administration of all flood-prone districts.

Last year, a breach in Kosi River's embankment had caused devastating floods in northern Bihar, affecting over 30 lakh people.

Additional inputs from PTI

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Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna