Anger growing against lack of adequate relief in Bihar

September 19th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Sep 19 (IANS) Hundreds of Bihar flood victims, many of who don’t have access to food and drinking water, have taken to blocking highways, attacking officials and looting relief material to draw the government’s attention to their plight. Three government officials and a flood victim were grievously injured in clashes in a relief camp in Banmankhi in Purnea district. The people taking refuge in the camp were angry over old clothes given to them.

“They attacked and assaulted officials for not distributing new clothes as promised” by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a police official said.

The same day, hundreds of people blocked National Highway 57 in Narpatganj in Araria district to demand food. They said they had not eaten at the relief camp for three days and no medicines had been provided to the sick.

While people in Sabaila village in Madhepura district staged a protest against lack of relief and drinking water, a mob looted relief material at Narpatganj railway station in Araria district Thursday.

Earlier this week, dozens of angry flood victims, including women and children, looted cattle feed and other relief materials from government stores in Saharsa, Madhepura and Supaul districts.

“There have been several protests by flood victims. In their desperation, they may turn very violent,” an official of the disaster management department said.

It has been a month since the Kosi river breached its embankment, swamping hundreds of villages and affecting over 3.24 million people in Bihar. However adequate relief is yet to be provided to victims in several areas.

The latest report of the state disaster management department puts the death toll 60. But relief workers say the number of dead could be several thousands.

About 990,000 people have been evacuated to safer places. Around 329,000 people have taken shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, officials said.

Moreover, 129 cattle have died and over one million affected by the floods.

The agriculture department has estimated that crops in 175,000 hectares of land have been destroyed in Madhepura, Supaul, Saharsa, Araria and Purnea districts.

According to the water resources department, the Kosi river continued to recede but still posed a threat to the lives of the people who refused to move to safer places.

Officials engaged in rescue and relief operations said most flood-affected, homeless people were now living in raised areas like embankment and highways apart from overcrowded relief camps set up by the government and NGOs.

An official said the Bihar government had prepared a preliminary report on damages caused by the flood.

“But the real assessment of damages and losses will only take place after floodwaters recede fully by the second week of October,” the official said.

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