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River of sorrow: Bihar floods claim 37 lives

CNN-IBN
Aug 26, 2008 at 04:58pm IST

New Delhi: The situation in the flood-affected 14 districts of Bihar continues to get worse. At least 37 people have been killed and over 12 lakh affected so far with the Kosi river in the northern part of the state breaking its embankment and drowning towns and villages.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said that he would soon meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his help in dealing with the "catastrophe" caused by floods after the river Kosi suddenly changed its course in neighbouring Nepal.

"It is not a normal flood but a catastrophe and my first priority is to provide relief to flood affected people and evacuate those trapped in the river bed of the Kosi," Kumar said.

The new stream has made the existing embankments redundant, Kumar said, adding that the new stream has complicated the situation.

He said over 12 lakh people were trapped between the old and the new streams of river Kosi which changed its course near Kusaha village in Nepal for the first time in the last 50 years after breaching the East Kosi afflux embankment on August 18.

Kumar alleged that the Centre did not release a single paise to compensate losses caused by last year's flood but added that it was not the time to indulge in blame games.

Officials are alarmed that the three-km-wide breach in the river is growing by approximately 200 m a day.

Principal Secretary, Bihar Government Disaster Management, R K Singh told CNN-IBN that Kosi is known for breaking its territory. “River has taken a new course. We are rescuing people who have come in the new course of river. Embankment was constructed on both sides, which held on till 60 years,” he said.

“1.44 lakh cusecs of water has been released in Kosi. The discharge is expected to go up. Government of Nepal and India have drawn a plan to fix up the breach in Kosi,” Singh added.

The flood has destroyed several acres of standing crop as the river picked up a channel it had abandoned over 200 years ago.

The worst affected districts include Madhepura, Bhagalpur, Araria and West Champaran.

Relief work is on in full swing with Air Force helicopters continuing to drop relief materials in the worst hit districts.

(With inputs from PTI)

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