Bihar floods: Eyewitness accounts of the fury

In a letter dated May 2, Bihar government instructed all flood protection works and anti-erosion work to be completed by June 10. In another communication, the deadline was extended to June 15

Bihar floods: Eyewitness accounts of the fury

NHS Bureau

In a letter dated May 2 this year, the Bihar government instructed all flood protection works and anti-erosion work to be completed by June 10. In another communication, the deadline was extended to June 15.

Orders were issued to keep sand bags ready and place them at strategic slopes along vulnerable points. Field teams were advised to keep crates of nylon and other material ready for meeting any emergency. But despite all these precautions, more than 12 districts in Bihar were facing the fury of floods from July 13 onwards. Significantly, the Disaster Management Department (DMD) of Bihar issued its first alert on July 14 when it said that eight districts were threatened with flood.

Two eyewitness accounts from Madhubani and Sitamarhi describe the situation this year:

Vivekanand Mishra, Naruar, Jhanjharpur (Madhubani): The embankment on the river Kamala breached at 00.12 hrs on July 15, 2019 in my village and within two and a half hours, water entered my premises at about 03.30 hrs the same night. The boundary wall of my house collapsed and the fish in my pond escaped; wood stacked in my yard was swept away, the agricultural field was inundated and continues to be under water eight days later. I have no clue when the water will recede. I am also not sure whether my fields will be left with sand or remain as they were.

Many pucca houses have collapsed and many more are tilting precariously on one side or the other. They are now unsafe for occupation. There is no count of the kuchcha houses or the huts that have been washed away.

Affected people cut the Sakri-Jhanjharpur railway line to facilitate draining of floodwater. There is considerable drainage congestion on the National Highway (NH-57) which will create more problems as the season advances.

Some polythene sheets have been given by the government and some community kitchens have started functioning. The government has started giving a sum of Rs 6,000 to each of the affected families but the pace is slow, perhaps because the process involves verification.

This embankment had breached at four other places in Madhubani district, namely Gopalakha (at two points), Rakhawari and Jainagar (Gorhaiya). The last two breaches had occurred on the eastern embankment of the river while Gopalakha and Naruar are located on the west. The last two villages are located almost on the border of Darbhanga district which has also suffered badly.

Nagendra Prasad Singh, Sitamarhi: There were severe floods in Sitamarhi in July, 1993 when seven breaches were reported on the left embankment of the Bagmati in the Majorganj block bordering Nepal. Some of these gaps were later filled but two were left open because of people’s resistance near Jamla, Harpur and Basbhitta, etc. This year massive widening of the gaps was seen near Parsa village in the same area.

Bagmati was in spate, and a four to six feet high column of floodwater, after devastating Majorganj, travelled to Belsand and Runnisaidpur blocks before entering Muzaffarpur district and flooding Aurai, Katra and Gaighat blocks. It then entered Darbhanga district on July 15.

The only road to Sonbarsa block remained motorable but all 16 blocks of Sitamarhi district were cut off. In 2004, relief material had to be routed through Nepal in those areas with special permission to move trucks in Nepalese territory and the government may have to resort to the same procedure this year too.

The state government simplified relief operations this time by giving a lumpsum amount of ₹6,000 to each family. This amount was expected to take care of the requirement of grains, utensils, etc. Chura/Gur that used to be supplied earlier, is in short supply this time. The government has converted the mid-day meals scheme in schools to community kitchens as the schools were shut down due to floods. These kitchens are in shambles though.

“A stall was set up to feed the flood victims near the toll plaza on NH-77. But it worked for a day. The Chief Minister also visited the stall but the day after, the camp was demolished on the plea that it was creating traffic problems. Three smaller stalls were then set up elsewhere but they are in poor shape.”

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