Little relief for a million cattle in flood-hit Bihar

September 17th, 2008 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Akshay KumarPatna, Sep 17 (IANS) Over a million cattle have been affected by the Bihar floods but there is no focussed approach to save them as the priority is to save human lives, officials here admitted Wednesday.”Cattle became a soft target of the calamity because there was no focus to save them, evacuate them and provide relief to them. The priority was to rescue human lives as many as possible,” an official of the state disaster management department said.

It has been a month since the Kosi river breached it embankment, swamping hundreds of villages and affecting over 3.24 million people. Besides, over one million cattle were affected though only a few camps had been set up for the cattle.

The latest official report of the state disaster management department puts the death toll of cattle at 129 while 60 people were killed in the calamity. Unofficially, however, relief workers say the number of dead people could be in the thousands.

Voluntary agencies fear the number of people killed could be in several hundreds. Government officials engaged in relief and rescue operations also apprehend that hundreds of people may have died, mostly washed away by floodwaters or due to the lack of food and medical care.

The voluntary organisations said that they have been facing problems in disposal of bodies due to surfacing of more than expected number of human corpses and animal carcasses.

“It is a tough task due to lack of dry lands for burial and wood for cremation,” a volunteer, Akshay Kumar Jha, told IANS.

About 990,000 people have been evacuated to safer places till date. Around 329,592 people have taken shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, officials said.

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

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

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 the overcrowded relief camps set up by the government and NGOs.

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

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

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