At least 3,611 Bihar flood victims still missing

October 21st, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Oct 21 (IANS) More than two months after the worst floods in 50 years swept through Bihar, 3,611 people are still missing and hopes of tracing them are receding with each passing day. The state government has virtually given up, having failed to trace a single missing person so far. “The flood-affected families have lodged 3,611 missing individual reports so far,” an official said here.

The missing persons are from the Madhepura, Supaul, Saharsa, Araria and Purnia districts.

“Most of the missing people reports are from Madhepura’s Kumarkhand, Murliganj and Supaul’s Chhattpur areas,” the official said.

“We are fed up with the repeated government assurance to trace my husband, who is still missing,” said Kamini Devi, resident of a relief camp.

Arvind Kumar, who is living at a relief camp in Saharsa since early September, is yet to reunite with his family in a village in neighbouring Madhepura district. “Now I am restless and losing hope,” he said.

The two of them are among hundreds who are starting to lose hope. “We are poor people. Where do I get the money to spend on the search for my two sons? They went missing after the flood hit my village,” said Dahaneshwar Rai, another flood victim.

Official sources in the Bihar Livelihood Project that was last month given the task of tracking missing people said that not a single person had been traced so far. “The work to trace missing people started with high hope but success is yet to come,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

Arvind Chaudhary, director of the Bihar Livelihood Project, told IANS: “It is not easy to trace missing people. It is a challenging task.”

The state government has now decided to take help of panchayat level officials and local police stations to trace people.

An IT firm from Hyderabad is helping the Bihar government track the missing people by creating a database using special software.

After IT giant IBM faced difficulty in compiling the database due to lack of specific identity details, the state government is now taking the help of Hyderabad-based Safal Solutions Private Limited.

Pratyaya Amrit, additional commissioner of the disaster management department, said that after evacuation and relief, tracking missing people was the government’s priority, followed by rehabilitation.

“The state disaster management department has opened a lost and found cell,” he pointed out.

The disaster management department has prepared a lost and found data sheet that was sent to all district magistrates and relief camps in flood-affected districts. A toll-free number to lodge complaints about the people who went missing was activated last month.

More than three million people in over 1,000 villages were rendered homeless and over one million cattle affected by the floods.

About 989,000 people were evacuated to safer places and over 350,000 people have taken shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, according to officials.

The calamity has claimed over 191 lives, according to official estimates. However, voluntary agencies fear the number could be in thousands once all bodies are recovered.

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