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Elderly bear brunt

india Updated: Sep 15, 2008 14:36 IST
Ramashankar, Paramita Ghosh
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Kaushalya Devi, 65, of Naraiya village, Supaul district, is not just a case study. She is wife who doesn’t know where her aged husband is. It has been 10 days since she had a bath. She does not have an extra sari to wear as nearly everything had been washed away. The elderly are facing their toughest days in Supaul, one of the worst affected districts lying on the Indo-Nepal border.

During floods, the elderly are the most vulnerable. Many of them are begging on the streets to sustain themselves. The inability to run to safety leave alone climb a roof, make them casualties of calamities. Near the Thermal Power Station, in Basantpur Block, Supaul, 30,000 - 40,000 flood-affected families have taken shelter in the open fields and on the banks of the river canal.

“People are still living in fear, the situation is being watched till Dusshera time, as more heavy rains are still expected. As a result rehabilitation will be delayed. HelpAge is currently focusing on organizing relief camps to provide the much needed medical aid,” says Mathew Cherian, HelpAge India, Chief Executive.

Three weeks have passed. But for Anand Poddar, a resident of Murliganj, the search for his family members, who were lost in the Kosi flood, continues. In his late seventies, frail Poddar is unable to locate them. He begs every government official and journalist, who visits Bedaur flood relief camp, to help locate his family members. “Sir, I am the lone survivor in my family. But eight of my family members are msssing,” he told HT minutes before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s visit to the camp on Thursday.

The story of B B Fatima is more pathetic. A resident of Lakshmanpur in Madhepura district, Fatima is frantically looking for her husband, son, daughter and her in laws. “How can I live without them? There is no meaning to my life,” said Fatima, who has taken shelter in a flood relief camp located near Purnia railway station.

Kalawati Devi glares at every visitor to the camp. “Have you seen my son and my daughter in law? She was pregnant. Where is she? Is she alive or dead?”

Arvind Kumar and his wife Asha Devi were forced to leave their old parents -- Balvir Prasad and Sadhna Devi -- at Tema village under Gwalpada block. “My parents were sick. They could not be carried. There were neither boats nor any other means for the crossing. We had to wade the waters for miles. They would not have made it. We tried hiring a private boat.

The cost was prohibitive. We do not have the money. The government boats go to such areas, where many have to be evacuated at once. Now, no boatman is ready to go there. I can only curse my fate for not being with them at this time of crisis,” said an inconsolable Kumar.

Munni Devi of Pratapganj and Sunaina Devi of Chhatapur were rescued on Wednesday. More than 50 families were still trapped in her village. “Some of them are very old and they need immediate attention. Otherwise, they will all die,” said Sunaina.

The administration is now sending a proforma to register the names of missing persons.

“We are sending the proforma to every police station. Efforts are also being made to send it directly to the relief camps. The list prepared at the camps will be sent to the district police headquarters and subsequently to the police stations concerned after they become accessible by road,” said a senior police officer.