Ignoring warnings, many in Bihar return to marooned villages

September 8th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Sep 8 (IANS) As floodwaters started receding in affected areas of Bihar, thousands have left relief camps and temporary shelters to return to their homes in still-marooned villages, afraid that their belongings might be stolen.Their return en masse has left government agencies engaged in rescue operations worried.

“Some people have started returning to their villages despite being warned against it. It is a big worry for us,” disaster management department additional commissioner Pratyay Amrit said.

He said that according to information received here from flood-affected areas, over 10,000 people had already left relief camps for their villages and so had many people taking shelters outside such camps.

“Returning to villages at this point is not safe and a big risk to their lives. Those who went back could be trapped once again because the water level in the Kosi river may rise any time in September and October first week,” Amrit told IANS.

An official in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said that people were returning to villages on their own, ignoring appeals and warnings of the state disaster management department.

”This new development is a challenge for the government agencies involved in the evacuation process,” a CMO official said.

Madhepura, which has turned into a ghost town, has seen the return of hundreds of people in last three days.

Bihar’s Disaster Management Minister Nitish Mishra said district authorities were asked to convince people not to leave relief camps and stay for some more time. ”We will try our best to discourage people not to return to their villages, which are still under water,” Mishra said.

Authorities have evacuated 971,000 people to safe places till Monday. Around 257,000 people have taken shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, according to officials.

Moreover, there were still pockets where close to 50,000 people had taken shelter on the rooftops of their homes but remained reluctant to move to relief camps, an official said. Personnel from the armed forces and government agencies were trying to convince them to move to safer places.

According to the water resources department, the Kosi continued its receding trend.

The water discharge from Barah Kshetra in Nepal was 86,250 cusecs Sunday afternoon - the lowest figure since Aug 18, when the river water started flowing on a new course after breaching the eastern Kosi afflux bund near Kusaha in Nepal.

According to Mishra, the river continued to pose a threat to the lives of people trapped in Bihar’s worst floods in over 50 years.

The floods have claimed at least 50 lives, according to official estimates. However, voluntary agencies fear the number could be in thousands once the bodies are recovered.

Over 2.5 million people and 925,000 cattle have been affected. About 100,000 hectares of farmland have been submerged and nearly 300,000 houses damaged.

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