Sydney / Bangalore: The Centre has sent 3,000 soldiers to help rescue thousands of people stranded in Bihar by flood waters that have killed at least 117.
“Six critical areas have been identified and there are about 60,000 people in these areas waiting to be evacuated,” disaster management additional commissioner Pratayaya Amrit said over the phone from the state capital, Patna, on Tuesday. “The Indian Army and Navy have moved into these areas and it may take two to three days for the evacuation to be completed.”
The flooding began on 18 August after the Kosi river burst a dam in neighbouring Nepal and rising waters inundated the Supaul district of Bihar, 7km downstream. The river changed its course, swamping hundreds of villages in Bihar. Three million people in 16 districts of the state have been affected and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said more troops and military equipment are needed.
Troubled slumber: Bobita Devi, 26, sleeps with her children at a relief camp in Jankinagar village of Purnia district on Monday. Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters
The army is evacuating about 25,000 people daily and has set up 37 medical camps, the ministry of defence said on Tuesday in an emailed statement. About 450 boats are being deployed in addition to six helicopters for rescue and relief operations. The navy has deployed 145 divers and another 24 boats for rescue operations, the ministry said. Army and navy boats are patrolling flood-hit districts in eastern and northern Bihar to deter thieves and prevent looting.
Cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar led a government team to inspect flood-hit areas on Tuesday, the home ministry said.
The government sent 10,000 tonnes of kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas cylinders to provide fuel and 500,000 bottles of water to deal with an “acute crisis” with clean drinking water, state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported on its website.
About 225,000 people have taken shelter in more than 100 relief camps set up by the state government and more are being housed in camps established by non-government organizations, Amrit said.
“The issue in relief camps is not about food and water alone. It is also about safety and security for women, which are lacking,” P.V. Unnikrishnan, emergency adviser to charity ActionAid, said over the phone on Tuesday from Saupal district. “Health and sanitation is a big challenge and there are cases of diarrhoea being reported. This is the worst flooding I have seen, as the land’s topography is changing by the day due to rising waters.” There is a “lack of coordination” between government agencies, he added.
The Central Water Commission said in a report that the Ganga, Ghagra, Burhigandak, Bagmati, Kamalabalan, Kosi, Mahananda and Adhwara group of rivers are flowing above danger levels and are likely to cross the “red mark” at points along their courses, according to Doordarshan.