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Houses partially submerged in Allahabad on Sunday. Photos: PTI
Houses partially submerged in Allahabad on Sunday. Photos: PTI

Photo essay: State of flood

Heavy rainfall and swelling rivers give states that were fighting drought a problem of plenty

After two years of sub-par rains, the bountiful showers of the south-west monsoon have taken several states, literally, from drought to deluge.

So far, floods have crippled life in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan—where the drought was severe a year ago—as well as states like West Bengal and Assam. The images were stark: As the burning ghats in the holy city of Varanasi went under water, desperate families cremated the dead on rooftops adjacent to the Ganga river.

Cremations being performed on the roof of a building as the famous Manikarnika Ghat was flooded in Varanasi on Monday.
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Cremations being performed on the roof of a building as the famous Manikarnika Ghat was flooded in Varanasi on Monday.

While the Prime Minister’s office stepped up vigil and relief operations in Varanasi, which is PM Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, a desperate Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, met Modi on Tuesday. Bihar has seen a rainfall deficit as high as 17% this time, yet 12 out of 38 districts are flooded.

Rescuers in the flood-affected Sawai Madhopur district in Rajasthan.
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Rescuers in the flood-affected Sawai Madhopur district in Rajasthan.

Kumar says the state, including the capital city of Patna, has been flooded owing to the release of dam water from states like Madhya Pradesh and, primarily, overflow from the Ganga. The Farakka Barrage in West Bengal is silting up the river and leading to widespread flooding in Bihar, Kumar told Modi.

Temples went under water as the Shipra river overflowed in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, on Saturday.
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Temples went under water as the Shipra river overflowed in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, on Saturday.

An internal report of the India Meteorological Department, prepared on Thursday, says floods in Bihar have affected about 3.5 million people—2.5 million of them are marooned. According to the report, crops of maize and vegetables in the state have been damaged and scores of cattle have died.

People using ‘tube boats’ to commute in a flooded locality in Patna on Sunday.
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People using ‘tube boats’ to commute in a flooded locality in Patna on Sunday.

While Bihar has witnessed floods despite a rain deficit, the flood-hit districts of Madhya Pradesh have received 20-30% excess rain during this monsoon season. According to the IMD, there are no reports yet of any significant damage to crops like soya bean and pulses there.

Villagers rescuing birds from Purbabhadurpur in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday.
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Villagers rescuing birds from Purbabhadurpur in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday.

The toll, however, is mounting. According to a 25 August Reuters report, 127 people have died so far in Bihar, mostly due to drowning; in Uttar Pradesh, at least 53 people have died and more than 1.8 million people in 29 of 75 districts are affected.

People moving to safer places from a flood-affected area in Patna on Sunday.
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People moving to safer places from a flood-affected area in Patna on Sunday.

The ample rain of the June-September south-west monsoon this time, after consecutive years of crippling drought, is expected to breathe life into rural incomes and revive consumer spending, but these floods might leave behind pockets of acute distress and devastation.

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