Tens of thousands of lives are at risk in Bihar as the Gandak, which breached an embankment on Thursday, continued its alarming rise on Saturday too.
“We are worried,” said Abdul Hamid, who heads a flood-fighting force set up by the state water resources department. “The augmented discharge of 2.12 lakh cusecs of water has made the river active.”
The extra water was discharged from the hilly rivers of Nepal causing the Gandak’s level to rise. Hamid’s force has been set up to provide technical help to flood-fighting work at Simaria village in Gopalganj district, 160 km northwest of state capital Patna.
The 16-feet-high main embankment caved in on Thursday. Now, a makeshift bund constructed after the breach is all that separates thousands of families in Gopalganj, Saran and Siwan districts from certain disaster.
“The situation is delicate. The frail 550-metre-long and 2-metre-high dyke, made of mud, is taking the full pressure of the ferocious Gandak,” said a spot engineer, who did not wish to be named. “It is just by the grace of god that the structure still stands.”
Many people from nearby towns have been walking over to Simaria to take a look at relief efforts. Some have even been lending a helping hand to officials and locals.
“When the DM (district magistrate D. Balamurugan) can lift sacks, why can’t we?” said Rukmini, a middle-aged woman. With spades in hand, children help fill sacks with sand and mud and carry rocks and stones around.
“We have to save the dyke. Children aren’t born just to play, but also to do some good work,” said Sumitra, 35, whose two children, Alok, 14, and Abhishek, 11, have been working on the dyke.
Fifteen times the dyke has cracked since Friday – 15 times it has been rebuilt. Officials are now raising and reinforcing it, hoping it can withstand the river’s pressure for another three to four days. The river is expected to ebb after Monday.
“A strong sloping bed is being constructed on the riverside of the retired line to sustain the pressure of water,” said Indu Bhushan Kumar, chief of the flood cell, water resources department.
The Election Commission is also monitoring the situation in the three districts. Polling in 48 seats of these districts is scheduled for the third phase of assembly elections on October 28.