Excess water from Nepal's Sharda river has flooded large parts of the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh and washed away a key pier of a 120-year-old bridge over the river, a senior wildlife official said on Saturday.
The bridge, that carried both rail and road traffic, was the sole connection between the park and the rest of Uttar Pradesh.
While officials are yet to assess the extent of damage to the park, state Chief Wildlife Conservator B K Patnaik said, "The damage could be extensive and we have to be prepared to suffer loss of both flora and fauna."
Hoping the water would recede and the internal roads and paths dry out before the commencement of the park's tourist season in mid-November, Patnaik remarked: "But we are still keeping our fingers crossed, just in case Nepal releases more water over the coming days."
"For the past three years in particular, Dudhwa has been facing a severe brunt on account of flash floods due to release of water from the dams in Nepal. But nothing concrete appears to have been done so far to find a permanent solution to the problem," Patnaik told IANS.
"I am going to hold a detailed discussion with the state irrigation authorities before we can take up the issue with the Nepal government."
Sprawling over 860 sq km, the park is officially stated to have a tiger population of around 100, besides some 2,000 swamp deer and a vast variety of birds and other wildlife including the one-horned rhino.
The damaged bridge and the flood waters have not only cut-off the park but also Pallia town, which is the closest urban habitation to the reserve.
As many as a dozen villages in the neighbourhood of the park were also inundated on account of the surging waters of Sharda river that has also devastated several villages in the neighbouring Bahraich, Gonda and Balramour districts.
Meanwhile, the railway authorities maintain they were still in the process of assessing how much time it would take them to repair the damaged pier.
"We would be in a position to draw our conclusions only after the flood waters have receded," a spokesman of the North Eastern Railway told IANS over telephone from Gorakhpur.
The state government has pressed police boats to provide relief and to evacuate people from the marooned areas.