The Centre launched a massive relief effort on Sunday for the Kosi region in north Bihar in the face of imminent floods. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had directed officials to do whatever it takes to save people in the direct line of the waters that could be released from the pent up Bhote Kosi, 262 km from the Bihar border at Birpur.
Union telecommunications minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking on instructions of the PM, said 12 teams of national disaster response force had already reached the areas likely to be affected to carry out relief and rescue operations. He added that three more teams were on their way and five more had been placed on standby.
This is in addition to a column of the Army, which has taken positions along the Kosi embankment in Supaul and Saharsa districts.
The Centre ordered four choppers stationed at Purnia and Saharsa, while the IAF has been placed on alert in Gorakhpur and Bagdogra for any emergency.
Additionally a 317 aircraft has been despatched on medical relief mission with 25 multi-speciality doctors with adequate equipment, Prasad said, adding, the NDRF had been equipped with SAT phones and another 15 SAT phones were being despatched.
The department of space is regularly monitoring data over Nepal in the area, where the river waters have been released as a pre-warning measure.
The Centre also said that there was no dearth of food stocks and the FCI storages in the region had adequate stocks, while department of food has already been directed by the PM to replenish stocks speedily and as required.
Prasad agreed that the situation was grim. While it was an uncontrollable natural calamity, all steps possible had been taken by the Prime Minister and the Union to mitigate any problem that might arise.
Scores abandon homes
Memories of the 2008 Kosi floods have returned to haunt the riverine region as landslides in Nepal have triggered the fear of another devastating flood in the already-panicking residents of the Kosi region.
Residents of Birpur, which is the closest to Nepal, are fleeing the area in panic and moving their most prized possession – cattle. “The last time, we lost everything. Is the flood really coming again? What can we carry? Everything will be lost again,” said Thakur Sada, 45, of Bhimnagar.
“There are six blocks comprising 31 panchayats with a population of around 45,000 in the Kosi embankment area. Around 25,000 have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, while the others still remain, as they don’t want to leave their houses and cattle. We are exploring possibilities of evacuating them as well,” said Supaul district magistrate Lakshmi Prasad Chauhan.
Chauhan said that the administration was geared up for any possibility of heavy discharge. “Two teams of national disaster response force (NDRF) and one of the army from Katihar have already arrived,” he added.
Sub-divisional magistrate Chandan Chauhan, who visited the Nepal area with a team of engineers to assess the situation, said there was no alarm at this stage, as water discharge was slow.
The government has ordered rehabilitation of the evacuated people in relief camps, but they are not yet fully equipped.