Having lost all to floods, woman waits for missing family

August 30th, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Saharsa (Bihar), Aug 30 (IANS) Meena Devi lost everything she had - her thatched house, clothes, two buffaloes, four goats and two sacks of wheat - in the floods caused by the turbulent Kosi river in Bihar and she has been surviving on water. But all this seems immaterial to her as she prays day and night for the safety of her missing husband and sons.Taking shelter at a relief camp in a government school near the bus stand in this north Bihar town for the past two days, Meena is extremely worried about her husband and two sons, who are trapped in neighbouring Madhepura district, one of the worst hit by the floods.

“I am spending sleepless nights, my hunger is over and I only survive by drinking water. I am just praying for their safety,” Meena, in her 40s, told IANS.

She and her daughter spent five days on the rooftop of a school building with other villagers before being rescued by an army boat and brought to the relief camp in Saharsa.

Meena has time and again requested district officials to help her trace her husband and sons, hoping against hope for their safety.

“We shifted here and our lives are safe but we’re always thinking about my husband and two sons, who went to a relative’s village to attend a function just a day before the Kosi river displaced us,” Meena said.

It has been 12 days since the Kosi, sometimes known as the sorrow of Bihar, changed its course after almost two centuries and breached an embankment upstream in Nepal, sweeping over large swathes of the state.

The floods have affected over two million people across 14 districts. According to officials, 12 people have been killed in the calamity, though unofficial reports put the toll as more than 55. Around 200,000 people have been evacuated so far.

Almost all villages in Madhepura have been swamped by the waters of the Kosi and even the highway connecting the district to neighbouring Saharsa has been submerged.

Meena and her daughter are among the thousands of people taking shelter at different places in Saharsa town, about 225 km from state capital Patna.

“This town has become a big shelter camp for thousands of people, who were forced to flee their marooned villages and Madhepura town, which is under water,” said Dinesh Kumar Singh, a member of a voluntary organisation that is providing food packets and drinking water to the victims.

Dozens of places here - schools, government offices or any vacant building - have been turned into a temporary shelters for thousands of people fleeing flooded homes.

Over 200 people have taken shelter at a Shiva temple, one of the many temples here that are providing refuge to flood victims.

“We fled our village and reached here. Our life was saved by god’s blessing and now we are surviving with some relief from government agencies and others,” said Bateshwar Paswan, who along with his family of six, is sharing a a hall in the temple with several others who have lost all to the floodwaters.

The biggest problem at their shelter is lack of toilets, Paswan said.

But they are fortunate compared to the hundreds of thousands of people forced to take shelter on roads, railway tracks and rooftops.

Saharsa District Magistrate M. Lakshaman said that people from Madhepura, Supaul and affected blocks of Saharsa have been coming in large numbers for shelter.

“The administration is trying to cope with it and to shift as many as possible to official relief camps soon,” he said.

The flood situation continues to be grim in the five worst affected districts of Madhepura, Saharsa, Supaul, Araria and Purnea, officials said. Five of 10 village blocks in Saharsa and Supaul are flooded while 11 blocks are inundated in Madhepura.

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