Millions stranded as floods hit Bihar

04 September 2008

by Ed Beavan

Holding on: displaced people move through floodwaters at Kalabalua village in the Araria district, Bihar, on Tuesday REUTERS

Holding on: displaced people move through floodwaters at Kalabalua village in the Araria district, Bihar, on Tuesday REUTERS

RELIEF operations in the state of Bihar in northern India, which has been severely flooded, are being hampered by incessant rain and rising water levels.

Prince David, the India represent­ative for the aid agency Tearfund, who is in Delhi co-ordinating its response to the crisis, said that about 500,000 of the estimated 2.7 million people displaced by the flooding had been evacuated from the region, but the situation had deteriorated in recent days.

“The river is glacier-fed, and snow is continuing to melt at this time of year, meaning water levels are continuing to rise. And adding to the havoc is incessant rain in the northern part of the country.” He urged Christians in the UK to pray for those affected.

About 15 districts in Bihar have been affected by the flooding, and the Madhepura, Supaul, and Saharsa districts are under water. “The water has inundated these areas so much that no land is showing. Nearly three million people have been left marooned with no food. We’re hearing stories of young people leaving their elderly parents, who are very weak, to fend for themselves,” said Mr David.

“We must pray for the relief workers because, out of sheer desperation, people have attacked boats bringing aid.”

Tearfund is working with organisations in the region, including the Emmanuel Hospital Association in the Madhepura district, which runs community kitchens in makeshift relief camps, although much of the hospital campus has been flooded.

Mr David said that the deaths were currently estimated at 2000, but it was impossible to confirm this.

Christian Aid has contributed £200,000 in initial funding to its partner organisations in Bihar to provide emergency food and medicine. Its partner CASA has offices in Bihar, and is distributing food to 5000 people.

Christian Aid’s representative for India, Anand Kumar, described the situation as an “unprecedented disaster, which will require both immediate and long-term assistance”.

The disaster was caused when a dam was breached by the Kosi River on the Nepal-India border. It is the worst flooding in Bihar in 50 years.

Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal for the region.

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