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The Centre on Sunday launched a massive relief effort for the Kosi region in north Bihar in the face of imminent floods, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi directing 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, 262km from the Bihar borders at Birpur.
Union telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking on instructions of the Prime Minister, said that while 12 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had already reached the areas likely to be affected to carry out relief and rescue operations, three 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 highly vulnerable Supaul and Saharsa districts. Three other columns have been despatched from Sukna in West Bengal to reach Purnia. 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.
Prasad said one AN-32 transport plane had already reached Chunapur airforce base in Purnia, while another was on standby with 2 MI helicopters, 2 Chetak on alert. Two more MI choppers were being despatched together with a navy divers team. Additionally, a 317 aircraft had been despatched on medical relief mission with 25 multispecialty doctors with adequate equipment, Prasad said, adding that the NDRF had been equipped with SAT phones and another 15 SAT phones were being despatched.
A separate army column had also been despatched from Ranchi under Major Harsha Vardhan to join relief and rescue operations and 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 godowns in the region had adequate stocks, while department of food has already been directed by the Prime Minister 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.
He said the Bihar government’s immediate focus was on evacuating as many people living on the rim of the embankments before the pent up waters traverses the 272km from the affected area in Jure in Nepal and enters the Indian area at Birpur, some time late evening of Sunday. He said evacuation was in full swing from critical areas in seven districts of Supaul, Saharsa, Madhubani, Madhepura, Purnia, Khagaria and Darbhanga.
He said the Prime Minister, before embarking on his twoday Nepal trip, had instructed for prompt, timely and speedy relief work and full cooperation with the Bihar government, stressing that no effort should be spared.