At least one woman was drowned as more than 100 villages were flooded in Bihar's Sitamarhi district after the Bagmati river breached its embankment early on Saturday, officials said. Many villages in the state's Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga districts were also inundated.
The swollen river breached a nearly 50 ft stretch of the embankment at Tilakrajpur under Runnisaidpur block in Sitamarhi, inundating several villages and affecting 20,000 people. "More villages are likely to be flooded," a district official said.
At least half a dozen people were feared drowned but district officials only confirmed that a woman had been killed.
The state government has asked the local administration to start rescue and relief operations, officials said.
Till Friday, the district administration and engineers claimed that there was no threat to the embankment by the rising level of water in the Bagmati river. According to official sources, the embankment was repaired and strengthened only last year.
Dozens of villages in Aurai and Katra blocks of Muzaffarpur district were also flooded after the Bagmati breached its embankment at three places on Saturday. It was reported that several villages in Darbhanga district were also flooded.
Major rivers in north Bihar, especially the Kosi, Gandak, Budhi and Bagmati are in spate following heavy rains in their catchment areas. With heavy rainfall recorded in the catchments areas in neighbouring Nepal, the water levels of these rivers have been rising to dangerous levels for the last four to five days.
"The Bagmati has crossed the danger mark at some points and the water level in Gandak also increased following water discharge into the river from Nepal," an official of the central water commission said.
In view of the rising water level in major rivers, the state government has alerted the administrations of flood-prone districts. The engineers of the water resources department have been directed to keep a vigil on vulnerable embankments.
The fear of a repeat of last year's devastating floods is haunting thousands of people in the region through which the Kosi river flows. More than three million people were rendered homeless when the river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course August 2008, flooding large tracts of land.