Bihar flood hits over 200,000, rescue work intensified

Those stranded in villages had been living under the open skies without food and drinking water.

"Government officials and security force personnel along with the National Disaster Response Force stepped up rescue work in Sitamarhi following Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's order to help people in distress," an official in the chief minister office said here.

According to officials, rescue teams of the Sashastra Seema Bal, Border Security Force and National Disaster Response Force have been deployed for relief and rescue operations.

"Till now nearly 400 people have been rescued by them and shifted to two relief camps set up by the government," an official said.

The district administration has pressed nearly 100 boats into service to bring stranded people to safe places.

More than 25,000 people are taking shelter on embankments, rooftops and other high places but are yet to be provided relief materials.

"The embankments near Tilaktajpur are overcrowded with displaced people of villages submerged under floodwaters," an official said.

The swollen river breached over a 100-feet stretch of the embankment at Tilaktajpur under Runnisaidpur block in Sitamarhi Saturday, inundating several villages and affecting over 200,000 people. More villages are likely to be flooded, a district official said.

Flood waters, meanwhile, continued to submerge more villages following a breach in an embankment of Lakhendei river in Muzaffarpur Sunday.

Till Friday, the district administration and engineers had claimed that there was no threat to the embankment from the rising water level in the Bagmati river. According to official sources, the embankment was repaired and strengthened last year.

However, villagers claim they had informed officials about a six-inch wide hole in the embankment. But no move was initiated to repair it. Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe and promised stern action against erring officials.

Angry flood victims reportedly beat up a government engineer near the embankment at Tilaktajpur Sunday, according to a local daily.

Dozens of villages in Aurai and Katra blocks of Muzaffarpur district were also flooded after the Bagmati breached its embankment at three places Saturday. It was reported that several villages in Darbhanga district were also flooded.

Major rivers in north Bihar, especially the Kosi, Gandak, Budhi and Bagmati are in spate following heavy rains in their catchment areas in Nepal. The water levels of these rivers have been rising to dangerous levels for the last four to five days.

More than three million people were rendered homeless when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course August 2008, flooding large tracts of land.

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