‘Army made to wait for six days before deployment in Bihar’

September 1st, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) The Indian Army could have moved in much earlier in flood-ravaged Bihar to join in the relief and rescue operations, but were made to wait for six crucial days before being given the formal order on Aug 26, a senior army official has said.Army troops had begun to move in to Patna on Aug 20, but were not given the orders to join in the rescue operations for six days - when all the while the waters of the Kosi continued to rise inexorably and swamp more villages in the state.

“The troops were waiting in Patna for the government’s order for six days. But in those six days a lot of damage was caused,” the army official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The Bihar government ordered the army deployment after its resident commissioner in Delhi met the cabinet secretary,” the official added.

Currently 21 columns of the army, consisting of more than 2,000 personnel, are involved in relief operations and 16 more columns are waiting to be moved. The army has set up three nodal centres under the supervision of three Brigadiers at Danapur, Katihar and Khagaria in Bihar to man the operations.

“By tomorrow morning (Tuesday), the number of columns engaged in rescue and relief operations will be 37 - that is around 4,500 army personnel. Around 21 army medical teams have been pressed into service,” army spokesman Lt. Col. A.K. Mathur said.

“The army has restored 14 points for people to get potable water and has ferried 130 potable water tankers. Ten important local roads and tracks have been repaired to help in rescue and relief operations,” said Mathur.

The Indian Navy has deployed 141 divers and a specialized team comprising 46 personnel of all the three Commands - Western Naval Command at Mumbai, Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam and Southern Naval Command at Kochi.

It has positioned two AN-32 aircraft each at the three places to help the diving teams. Six Indian Air Force helicopters have been engaged in air-dropping of food packets.

The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has announced that two days ration of the armed forces will be given to the flood-hit people of Bihar.

According to government figures, nearly 467,000 marooned people have been evacuated and over 150,000 were sheltered in 172 relief camps.

Over 2.5 million people in 1,598 villages spread over 15 districts have been affected by the floods triggered by the Kosi. The floods have claimed 35 lives so far.

The Kosi river, sometimes called the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’, changed its course after almost two centuries following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal. Unlike annual floods, there is little hope that the waters of the Kosi will recede soon.

The Central Reserve Police Force officers and personnel Monday announced they would donate a day’s salary amounting to Rs.31 million for relief operations.

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