It has been raining incessantly in flood-hit Gopalganj district in North Bihar since Wednesday afternoon, adding to the havoc the Gandak River has been spreading after it breached its embankment in Barauli block in the early hours of Thursday.
“Where do we go in this rain? We do not know of any relief camps nearby. Most of us don’t want to leave our villages in the absence of assurances of adequate relief and shelter. And even if we do move away, what happens to our cattle?” asked Chandrama Rai of Bhainsahi. Rai said that though his family had moved to a nearby embankment that seemed relatively safe, he had stayed back to take care of his 12 hi-breed cows and buffaloes.
At Sariara, a couple of kilometers from Baterdeh, women and the elderly have already moved atop a stretch of the embankment. The men have stayed back to ensure that their houses remain secure.
“Once the embankment at Simaria breaches, which is likely, the region would be one sheet of muddy water with most houses going under. We are keeping a close watch and will leave for the embankments the minute we sense danger,” said Harihar Pandey, one of Sariara’s more prosperous farmers.
“Since early today we had been trying to shore up the pressured embankment with sandbags and boulders. It proved to be of no use. The river waters just pounded them away as if they were matchsticks. We are now shoring up the Simaria-Sidhwalia road in the hope that it might just be able to withstand the river’s pressure. If the road gives way, it would spell real big trouble for villagers of the region,” said a water resources department engineer.
IAS officers pitch in
It was a rare sight – IAS officers working like labourers to plug the flow of the angry Gandak on Thursday.
They included Bihar’s Development Commissioner K.C. Saha, Gopalganj District Magistrate D. Balamurugan, Principal Secretary of the Water Resources Department (WRD) Ajoy Nayak and Engineer-in-Chief of the North Division of the WRD Rajeshwar Dayal.
They were turning over sacks of sand and carrying boulders to plug the flow of the Gandak further into the rural areas. The IAS officers joined the 2,000 volunteers and 3,000 labourers in the effort to save vulnerable villages from inundation.
“They have won our hearts and inspired us to join the effort,” said Santosh Mahato of Semaria village.