Over five mn hit in Bihar floods, toll 160

Patna, Sep 3 (IANS) Around 5.5 million people have been affected due to floods in 20 districts of Bihar, with the death toll going up to 160, official figures showed.

With the flood situation remaining critical, thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and struggle for survival under the open skies with inadequate relief at hand, officials said.

"After heavy rains lashed several part of the state Monday, the flood situation worsened and more areas have been inundated," said an official of the state disaster management department.

With all major rivers, including the Ganga, Kosi, Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Sone and Bagmati, flowing above the danger mark, there is a threat of more villages being inundated.

State Water Resources Development Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary, however, said all river embankments were safe and there was no need to panic.

Vipin Kumar Rai, officer on special duty at the disaster management department, said the authorities have set up relief camps for flood-affected people in most areas.

Till date, 2.9 lakh quintals of foodgrain have been distributed among the flood victims. Besides, 50,550 polythene sheets have been distributed and 2,799 boats pressed into service for ferrying the affected people from one place to another, he said.

Floodwaters have already entered hundreds of villages and people forced to flee their homes, reviving fears of a repetition of the 2008 devastation.

In 2008, over three million people were rendered homeless in the state when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course. It was said to be the worst floods in the state in the last 50 years.

The rising Ganga recently broke a decades-old record as it wreaked havoc in nearly a dozen districts, including Patna, Saran, Bhojpur, Bhagalpur, Buxar, Katihar, Vaishali and Begusarai.

"Water entered these villages after the levels rose in all the major rivers. Most of the flood victims have taken shelter on high roads, embankments, schools and government buildings and in makeshift tents," said another official of the department.

Officials said standing crops, including bananas, worth crores of rupees have been destroyed and road communication at several places has snapped.

"Rising rivers have badly hit paddy cultivation and destroyed standing banana and maize crops in Vaishali, Khagaria, Bhagalpur and other districts," he said.

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