M A I N   N E W S

1,20,000 evacuated in Bihar

Patna, August 28
Troops helped evacuate more than 120,000 people from floods in Bihar, but more bad weather raised fears that rivers would continue to overflow, officials said on Thursday.

The flooding, which officials say are the worst in 50 years, was caused after the Kosi river broke a dam in Nepal where it originates, unleashing huge waves of water that smashed mud embankments downstream in Bihar.

Many villagers offered prayers and slaughtered goats to appease the Kosi, known as Bihar’s “river of sorrow” for its regular floods and ability to change course.

“We are praying to the river goddess and offering her blood since only she can help us”, a village woman in the worst affected Supaul district told a local newspaper.

At least two million people have been forced from their homes and a quarter of a million houses destroyed. So far 55 deaths have been officially reported in Bihar, but activists and local media put the toll many times higher.

Stranded villagers complained of an unbearable stench from rotting carcasses and the United Nations warned of the spread of water-borne disease.

TV stations showed swirling flood waters pouring into homes through windows, submerging hundreds of villages and roads and railway tracks. Telephone and power lines snapped.

Torrential rains have killed more than 1,000 people in South Asia since the monsoon began in June, mainly in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 725 people have lost their lives. Other deaths were reported from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Some experts blame the floods on heavier monsoon rains caused by global warming, while others say authorities have failed to take preventive measures and improve infrastructure.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party, flew over devastated areas by helicopter on Thursday.

State officials said that more than 120,000 had been evacuated and kept in more than 100 temporary camps, but bad weather was hampering rescue and relief operations.

“We have the army, disaster management teams, police and other groups of rescuers making every effort to save the population,” said R.K. Singh, a top disaster management official.

Officials said floods had destroyed more than 2,27,000 homes and damaged about 1,00,000 hectares of vegetables, wheat and paddy crops. — Reuters



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