The scare of 2008 Kosi devastation has returned to haunt the people of the region. Though Kosi is in full spate, it is yet to overtop its banks. Landslides in Nepal and apprehension of huge and unpredictable discharge of water anytime, has set the alarm bells ringing.
The people are panicky as much in Birpur, closest to Nepal, as in Saharsa and Madhepura. Rumours over the explosions to clear the river pathway blocked by landslides in Nepal every hour has added to their worries over the quantum of water that could be released. The embankment near Birpur was thick with people carrying their prized possession - herds of cattle. "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, clearly disoriented.
"I have sent my family to stay on the embankment, as have many others. Male members return during the night to take care of the house. If water gushes in during night, only God can help us," he said.
As Rajkumar, 12, approaches, pushing his bicycle laden with food items and clothes, Sada asks him to move carefully. The stretch up to Birpur was busy since the break of dawn, with panicky men, women and children carrying their belongings on their head, with herds of cattle following them. "There are six blocks comprising 31 panchayats with population of around 45,000 in the Kosi embankment area. Now, around 25,000 have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, while many 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.
He said the administration was full geared to meet the situation should there be heavy discharge. "At present, things seem under control, but we are not taking any chances. Two teams of national disaster response force (NDRF) and one of the Army from Katihar have already arrived and are working in the embanked area to ensure evacuation. Other teams, including that of medical experts, are also arriving," 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. "So far, 1,12,000 cusec discharge has been reported. Last year, it was 300000 cusecs. There was apprehension of 900000 cusecs this time, but now that seems unlikely, considering huge inundation on the Nepal side. The exact point of landslide is around 425 kms away and water will lose much of its current by the time it reaches Birpur. Yet, we are taking all precautions in view of unpredictable nature of Kosi," he added.
The SDM said the evacuation was therefore concentrated in the embankment area. However, for the people who have experienced the scourge of Kosi, it is a real fright.
The government has ordered rehabilitation of the people in the relief camps, but they are not yet fully equipped. At the Babhtihahi camp in a school, where chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was to visit with energy minister Bijendra Yadav, water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary and a host of senior officials, even the meal had not been served till 2.30 pm.
"All that we got is 'chura'(flat rice). Some got chura and sugar, but later sugar fell short. There is nothing for the infants and children," lamented Mohani Devi, 52, and Saro Devi, 35, of Dholi panchayat. Samtolia Devi, 46, of village Katia said that her children were waiting for anything to eat.
"I had some money. I have bought him some biscuits. Now, when his father arrives, he will get something," she said, pointing to the mid-day meal canteen of the school where cooking process had just started. gPerhaps, we will have to wait a bit longer for the leaders to arrive,” she added.