India struggling to rescue victims

At least half of the 1.2 million people displaced by the flood waters are rescued.

    India's worst flooding has displaced at least 1.2 million people  [AFP]

    'Massive relief effort'

    The massive relief effort was the first to deploy all three branches of India's military: the army, the navy and the air force, said Amrit.

    Despite having more than 5,000 troops deployed across the state to rescue marooned communities and provide food and medical supplies, the rising flood waters left even more villagers stranded.

    The road linking Saharia village to the rest of the hard-hit Saharsa district washed away on Monday.

    "The water came on Saturday and since then no government officials have come to us," Ram Bachan Rai, 60-year old Saharia resident, said.

    Rajendra Sah, 43, was one of many to complain that authorities were not distributing aid equally.

    "Influential people are taking all the relief materials," he said.

    There were also reports of looting across the region.

    Dr. Unnikrishnan PV, the Emergencies and Conflicts Advisor for ActionAid International in Bihar, told Al Jazeera that he was in one of the worst affected areas and the situation seems to be "deteriorating fast."

    "There are hundreds of thousands of people looking for food, water and other support systems" the flood waters have not receded as many continue to flee the rising flood waters and "time is running out for them," he said.

    Disease fears

    "People came in a boat and took away the grain we had stored on the roof," Chetu Yadav, a Saharia resident, said. 

    "They were armed so we were afraid to challenge them."

    Nearby, aid workers from Unicef and the European Union tried to work out how best to provide help and distribute aid.

    Crowded conditions in the camps could lead to outbreaks of diseases [AFP]
    "We are going from place to place trying to assess the needs of the people, see what gaps there are and how we can fill them," Malini Morzaria, from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department, said.

    The government has set up relief centres in schools across the region, and thousands of people crowded into the buildings for hot meals of rice and lentils.

    Many also brought along their cattle and goats.

    With the numbers in the camps expected to nearly double in the coming days, there were fears the crowded and often-unsanitary conditions could lead to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

    The United Nations warned "the heat, combined with limited supplies of safe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, poses a great risk of water and airborne diseases".

    Situation 'getting worse'

    The relief was disjointed, and many areas saw displaced people camped out on whatever high ground they could find - embankments, railway tracks, bridges.

    "This is quite an unimaginable disaster ... at the same time coordination could improve [relief] efforts ... unfortunately today coordination has not been efficient," Unnikrishnan said.

    "The government must inform people when more water will be rushing into the Indian territory and which places are likely to be submerged ... thousands of lives can be saved by this advance information," he said.

    In Madhepura, one of the biggest flooded towns, residents stormed a government office late on Monday, throwing stones and demanding food, television news reports showed.

    Officials say the flooding is expected to continue until November when the monsoon rains are expected to stop.

    Only then will officials be able to fix the breach in the Kosi River that is more than a kilometre wide and growing.

    While the state of Bihar is used to flooding from the annual monsoon, this year's floods have been particularly devastating because they have hit areas that normally remain dry and lack the infrastructure to deal with the rising water levels.

    The monsoon season, which starts in June, is vital for the farmers of South Asia, but the rain can also cause massive destruction.

    In neighbouring Bangladesh, flooding has cut off at least 50,000 people, according to news reports on Tuesday.

    A flood warning agency forecast the situation as "likely to deteriorate."

    News reports said three people drowned on Monday in flood-ravaged areas north of the capital of Dhaka.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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