Thousands of people in flood-prone villages in Bihar are living in fear of their homes being inundated by a torrent of water if an artificial lake created after a deadly landslide in neighbouring Nepal bursts its banks.
Authorities have already evacuated nearly 70,000 people to relief camps and many people have taken shelter on the river Kosi’s embankments along with their cattle, but the government has assured them the waters have not yet risen to dangerous levels.
“We are keeping a constant watch and our priority is to get the people residing on the embankment evacuated. Some people have still remained as they don't want to move out," said Chandan Chouhan, the sub-divisional magistrate of Supaul.
Many villagers cannot fathom the intensity of the natural disaster and are concerned about living on the embankments. "We have been here since Sunday evening, but there is not even water available here. If they install a couple of hand pumps, that will be a great service," said Leela Devi, 30, of village Pasatpar on an eastern embankment.
Some have built small huts on the embankments, while someone go home everyday to fetch food. "This is the situation when the flood is yet to come. If it does, whose mercy we will be left at," said Dukha Shah from village Balua.
While the disaster management authorities are concentrating on evacuating people, the water resources department is taking flood-fighting measure such as strengthening embankments with sand bags and boulders.
"Once we know water has overtopped or crossed the artificial lake, and is rushing downwards into Bihar, we will not hesitate to force out people to relief camps. Our objective is zero-casualty," said the principal secretary of Bihar’s disaster management department, Vyas Ji. "We are trying to make the camps as good if not better than the homes villagers reside in. For this, we are focusing on quality as well."
He said the army and a naval team of divers were on standby in case the villages were inundated and thousands of people were displaced from their homes.