Bihar shifts 75,000 after flood threat

Bihar shifts 75,000 after flood threat

Panic as Kosi level rises

Bihar shifts 75,000 after flood threat

Over 75,000 people were evacuated on Sunday after a drastic rise in the water level of Kosi river in Bihar spread panic among people living along the Indo-Nepal border, who feared a repeat of the 2008 flood that killed 237 and displaced lakhs.

A major catastrophe was averted on Sunday, although temporarily, as Nepal warned before releasing a large amount of water into the Kosi river, which originates in the Himalayan nation. People were shifted to relief camps following the alert issued by Nepal after a landslide in its territory. 

The calamity occurred in Nepal’s Sindhupalchok district, some 100 km north of Kathmandu, and more than 600 km from Patna, in the early hours of Saturday. It resulted in damming of the river Sunkosi, a tributary of Kosi, where around 14 lakh cusecs of water accumulated. As a result, the river turned into a lake. 

On Saturday, Nepal alerted India that once its armymen blasted the debris, water would come gushing down to Bihar. 

According to an estimate, 40 per cent of the water accumulated in Nepal was supposed to be released into Bihar, and, thus the Indian state was asked to take all precautionary steps.

The Centre on Sunday dispatched a 40-member doctors’ team with 15 companies of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Six companies of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) were also put on the job. The authorities evacuated about 75,000 people and their cattle in Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura, Purnia, Araria, Khagaria, Bhagalpur and Madhubani to relief camps. 

India appealed to Nepal to ask its army to blast the debris (near Sindhupalchok) during daytime and in phases so that the water was not released into Kosi in one go. “We have also despatched our engineers and officials to the site in Nepal where the Bhante Kosi (another name for Sunkosi) has been (dammed),” said Bihar’s Disaster Management Principal Secretary Vyasji on Sunday. 

“The team has been asked to inform us immediately after the Nepal Army blasts the debris. According to Central Water Commission, around 40 per cent of water would gush down the Kosi and flow into Bihar,” Vyasji said, adding that “experts believe that flood water would travel for eight hours in Nepal and another six hours in Bihar before it reaches Birpur barrage (in Bihar’s Supaul, close to Indo-Nepal border).
Meanwhile, all the 56 gates of Birpur barrage have been opened to deal with the sudden rise in water level. After the water flows downstream from the barrage, it is believed it could withstand the pressure of at least 6 lakh cusecs and also help prevent damage to the western embankment of Kosi.

Till the time of reporting, Nepal had released 1.5 lakh cusecs, which was not alarming given the capacity of Birpur barrage. But Bihar is still on high alert as the spectre of nature’s fury looms large.