At least 32 people, including 18 children, have died of diarrhoea in flood-hit Bihar's Supaul and Saharsa districts, officials said on Saturday, giving rise to the fear of an epidemic among those affected by the calamity.
Supaul and Saharsa are two of the worst-hit districts. Officials engaged in relief and rescue operations said that diarrhoea was an outcome of people drinking contaminated water.
Official sources said that 10 people died of diarrhoea in Supaul, while dozens were suffering from the water-borne disease.
The village body head of Manganj panchayat in Triveniganj block said that 17 people, who were taking shelter on the rooftop of the village middle school, had died of the disease.
The toll in Araria district is five.
Officials admitted that over 100 cases of diarrhoea and dysentery have been reported from flood-hit areas. Most patients complain of vomiting, loose motion and stomach ache the main symptoms of diarrhoea.
"Lack of access to clean drinking water is a major cause of the spread of diarrhoea as people are forced to consume water from contaminated sources for survival," an official of the state disaster management department told IANS over telephone.
International aid agencies and NGOs had earlier warned of a likely outbreak of epidemics in the flood hit areas. Reports of people suffering from high fever and pneumonia have also been rising by the day in the past week.
With the impending threat of epidemics, the government has started an immunisation drive for measles at all the 300 relief camps.
On Friday, the central government's health ministry said that around 300 tonnes of medicines would be sent to Bihar.
"We are sending 37 varieties of medicines to tackle the health problem in Bihar. Fourteen million chlorine tablets, 630,000 doses of measles vaccine, malaria-testing kits and some other medicines have already been dispatched," said Health Secretary Naresh Dayal.
Nineteen days after floods hit the state, hundreds of thousands of people are still marooned. The turbulent Kosi river continues to pose a threat to lives of people trapped in Bihar's worst floods in over 50 years.
The flood situation in Bihar, triggered by the surging waters of the Kosi river, continues to be grave with hundreds of villages under water, millions displaced and many still waiting for rescue.
The floods have claimed 50 lives, according to official estimates. Over 2.5 million people and 925,000 cattle have been affected.
Several Bihar districts were flooded by the swirling waters of the Kosi river following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal.
According to official sources, so far 839,000 people had been evacuated from over 898 villages in the last 16 days with the help of the army, navy and air force.
"Over 275,000 people are staying in relief camps in the areas," an official said.
The floodwaters have submerged about 100,000 hectares of farmland and nearly 300,000 houses have been damaged.