Rescue reaches forgotten Bihar village
The first visitor to the village in three weeks, a Hindustan Times photographer accompanying an army column, had a big welcome gesture awaiting him: a young man’s angry whack on the back...Special Coverage: Sorrow of BiharUpdated: Sep 11, 2008 23:25 IST
A hungry young man’s tight angry whack on the back of a Hindustan Times photographer took too much effort.
Too frail and weak to do anything more, the man collapsed to the ground.
Three weeks after the Kosi River changed its course and set off a catastrophe across 1 lakh acres of land, several villages still remained completely cut off and beyond reach, with people desperate and hungry without food.
Thousands of villagers here had been waiting for any government aid for weeks, so angry that one of them assaulted an HT photographer minutes after he landed in the village on an army boat. The man was angry at being photographed, and so weak from hunger that he fell down right after.
The currents around Giwaha in Bihar’s Supaul district were so strong that rescuers could not access it until Thursday, when Hindustan Times was the first newspaper to reach the remote, submerged area.
When the flood ravaged his area, the man’s family had food stored for five days. They survived on it for the next 18 days. On Thursday, they got “chura” – flattened rice flakes) – for many, the first morsels in two days.
The eastern embankment of the dam near Birpur town breached on the 18th of August but the Bihar government called in the army only 10 days later, on August 28, officers said. In the meanwhile, the National Disaster Response Force was the first to reach the region and begin rescue work.
Rescuers scouring many of the 1,000 submerged villages are now being turned away by villagers who say they want to stay back to protect their homes and cattle from thieves.
Even in relief camps, people are desperate to go back as some people from every family are still back home.
More than 1,200 people have been given shelter at a relief camp at the Trivenigunj High School in Trivenigunj, where volunteers briskly prepare rice, pulses and vegetables at a langar (community kitchen) 24 hours of the day.
Mothers sit awake the whole night, afraid they might lose their children.
But they know much else has already been lost forever.
“You will not be able to make out how many people have died in this flood, you will not see dead bodies floating around,” said an old man at the camp who refused to give his name. “Come when the water recedes, you will see skeletons, and not a few -- I can tell you that.”