Nepal likely to declare emergency in flood-hit areas (Lead)

September 4th, 2008 - 2:35 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” may declare Thursday a state of emergency in the flood-devastated areas in the south of the country.The newly expanded six-party cabinet began readying for a meeting in the prime minister’s office in Singh Durbar, at the heart of Nepal’s administrative complex, to finalise the details of the announcement and a comprehensive relief package, the state and public media said.

About 10 to 11 villages in Sunsari district, where the breaching of the barrage on the turbulent Saptakosi river has caused tens of thousands to become homeless in both Nepal and India, are likely to come under a state of emergency for 10 days to speed up rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures.

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 a massive epidemic.

The cabinet is 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 also urged 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 three 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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