At least one million marooned people need to be evacuated to safe places in Bihar, where over 2.5 million people have been affected by floods, Bihar Disaster Management Minister Nitish Mishra said on Thursday, even as the situation remained grim.
"As the flood situation has remained grim, we estimate that not less than one million people have to be evacuated to safe places. It is a big challenge for the government," Mishra said.
Ten days after the Kosi river, sometimes known as the sorrow of Bihar, changed its course after almost two centuries and swept over large swathes of the state, the realisation is gradually dawning. This may not be one of those floods that affect Bihar almost every year with waters receding within a few days.
After the Kosi swelled over following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal, the marooned people waited for rescue more than relief.
Mishra said his assessment of one million people in need of evacuation was based on hundreds of telephone calls he received daily after publicising his phone number in dailies and TV channels, advising people in need to contact him.
"On an average over 200 marooned people requested me over phone to rescue them and send boats," he said.
"We have to evacuate about one million people from Madhepura, Supaul and some parts of Saharsa district (about 225 km from Patna). There is no need to evacuate more people from Araria district as only three blocks are affected and those who were marooned are already evacuated," Mishra told IANS over telephone.
Mishra has been camping in Araria, one of the worst flood-hit districts bordering Nepal, for nearly a week after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar instructed ministers, legislators and officials to respond to the situation without delay.
The minister said the situation was still alarming and there was no option but to evacuate all of those marooned as the water level was still increasing.
However, the inadequate number of boats and high floodwater current were posing problems.
"I plan to evacuate all marooned people in another 72 hours but it is very difficult task," he said.
He said that during an aerial survey he had seen people had taken shelter on high-rise canals, national highways and roofs of their houses and government buildings.
So far 90,000 people have been evacuated.