Nepal declares emergency in flood-hit areas (Second Lead)

September 4th, 2008 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 4 (IANS) Faced with his first crisis within 72 hours of being sworn in, Nepal’s new Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” Thursday declared a state of emergency in the worst flood-devastated areas in southern Nepal to speed up rescue, relief and rehabilitation work.The newly expanded council of ministers held its first meeting at Singh Durbar, at the heart of Nepal’s administrative complex, to approve of the emergency proposal forwarded by the home ministry.

This is the first state of emergency imposed by the Maoist-led government. In the past, when the Maoists were waging an armed war against the state, they were at the receiving end of such measures taken by the then government.

The last time Nepal saw the proclamation of a state of emergency for political reasons was during the absolute rule of King Gyanendra.

Health Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said the cabinet meeting had also endorsed the formation of a three-member ministerial committee to oversee relief and rehabilitation in parts of Sunsari district in the Terai plains, where the barrage on the Saptakosi river was breached last month, triggering a deluge in Nepal and India.

Headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam, who is also the home minister, the committee includes Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar “Badal” and Physical Planning and Works Minister Bijay Gachchedar.

The move was compelled by the outbreak of water-borne diseases in the relief camps opened in Sunsari district as well as the areas in which homeless victims of the raging river have been huddling for shelter for over a fortnight now.

At least 12 people, including women and children, have died due to diarrhoea and fever while pneumonia and skin diseases were stalking the region, feeding fears of an epidemic.

The cabinet is also expected to announce details of a relief package that will include food, medicines and rehabilitation.

The agriculture ministry has reportedly forwarded a Nepali Rs.732 million relief and rehabilitation plan to the cabinet for approval. It is also urging the Maoist supremo to waive the loans given to the farmers who lost their crop and land.

The floods have made over 100,000 people homeless in Nepal and caused a loss of at least Nepali Rs.15 billion to a country that is among the poorest in the world and already reeling under a massive destruction of infrastructure during its 10-year insurgency.

The 29 relief camps run in Sunsari, along the India-Nepal border, are also sheltering a large number of victims from India’s Bihar state, which bore the brunt of the deluge with over 2.5 million people affected.

Nepal Red Cross Society said it would feed the camp inmates, including 2,916 Indians, with assistance from the UN’s World Food Programme and Save the Children.

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