Koshi flood ebbs; rescuers search for missing in Bihar

Patna, September 9:

Rescuers began searching for missing people in flood-devastated northern India after evacuating more than one million people whose homes and villages were under water, officials said today.

Rescue workers were able to move into previously inaccessible areas to look for survivors after the water levels dropped, said state disaster management official Prataya Amrit.

“The main focus now is on the smooth functioning of relief camps and health centres, and looking for the missing people,” said Amrit.

Hundreds of square kilometres of villages and farmland have been submerged in impoverished northern Bihar state since the Koshi River burst its banks on August 18, shifting it’s course hundreds of kilometres to the east and essentially transforming the area into a giant lake.

The Koshi has since cut a new channel and begun draining into the Ganges river that runs across the subcontinent.

Authorities have confirmed 42 deaths, but it is widely believed the final toll will be much higher.

So far, not even a rough estimate of the number of missing was available. It may be higher than estimated. Disaster officials are talking to refugees in the relief camps to assess how many people may still be lost in Bihar’s five worst affected districts, Amrit said.

The majority of the more than one million people evacuated are staying with friends or relatives, but some 257,000 people have taken shelter in 313 state-run camps, Amrit said. Despite warnings of continuing danger, some flood victims were scrambling to get back to their homes.

Amrit said more than 30,000 evacuated villagers have returned to the flood zone since the flood fury over the weekend.