NGO estimates Bihar flood death toll at 2,000

August 29th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) The Bihar government says the official death toll in floods after the Kosi river changed course is 12, but international NGO ActionAid whose workers are on the ground says “it is likely that 2,000 people have died”.Citizen’s Initiative on Floods in Bihar, a platform of NGOs including ActionAid, says that the government’s statistics includes only reported death figures. “However, those missing are not included in the official count,” an ActionAid spokesperson said here Friday.

P.V. Unnikrishnan, ActionAid’s emergencies adviser for Asia, said: “A large number of people have gone missing. The reason is that the floods have happened in places where floods have not happened for 50 years.

“By not counting those gone missing, the government estimates not only result in inadequate compensation and rehabilitation processes, but also underplay the need for rescue and relief, thus adversely impacting the affected community in need of help.”

People have moved to any available high ground, abandoning their homes, possessions and livestock. Makeshift relief camps are operating.

An ActionAid spokesperson said the flood-affected people are being forced to drink unsafe water, and cases of diarrhoea have been reported. The NGO “has distributed tarpaulins and water-sterilising tablets from existing stocks, but will need to buy relief supplies on a much larger scale to meet the needs of flood survivors”.

After its team toured the affected villages, the spokesperson said: “The most urgent needs are for temporary shelter, food, drinking water, medical supplies, baby food and delivery kits and sanitary napkins for women. More boats are needed for rescue and relief operations.”

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