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Army plays the saviour in flooded Bihar villages

Krishnakumar P in Sursar | September 08, 2008 10:26 IST

Purnea town is Bihar has given refuge to thousands of flood-affected victims in the last few days. While the town has remained untouched by Kosi's [Images] rampage, most areas surrounding it have been flooded.

"The last time we witnessed floods in Purnea was in 1987. All the surrounding areas were also flooded. But we haven't experienced floods since then," says Manoj Chaudhary, a resident of Purnea.

He said some of the places that have been affected by the Kosi changing its course were tributaries of the river decades ago.

"As the embankment was breached, it chose a natural course. Now, Purnea town is a place where the flood hit can reach to safety. If by any chance our town had been hit, the water would have flown down and more areas would have been affected," he said.

In towns and bigger villages like Saharsa and Supaul, there are few signs of government agencies. But in remote areas, the army has been playing the saviour.

Araria district is located 30 kms from Purnea and most of the places in this district are closer to the Nepal border. In some of the places, transactions are conducted in Nepal currency.

Sursar is one such village. It was among the first to be washed away and one of the last to be rescued.

It was the army that managed to reach this remote hamlet. Those rescued have taken refuge at the relief camps in Forbesganj and Batnaha.

"The army was the first to reach us. They came in boats and got us. But they did not allow us to carry anything. They made us leave all our belongings behind," said Safi Mohammed, the village headman of Kushalmal, a village of 400 people.

"We could not take anything extra. If you discard the belongings of all the people, you could accommodate two more persons," pointed out a jawan at one of the camps.

Doctors, government administrators, Border Security Force personnel and members of the Sarashtra Suraksha Bal are working among the flood-affected victims at the camp. "Dehydration, bronchial trouble and diarrhea are the main ailments these people suffer from. We are treating them for that," Dr R B Gari, an SSB medical commandant, said.

While in other villages, people have been marooned without choice, the people of this region planned and left a few people behind.

"When we were leaving our village, we asked the ration shop to give us some supplies. They said since we are deserting our village, they won't give us anything. They also threatened to strike us off the records. There is no telling what else these guys are capable of. So we designated a few young men to take care of the belongings of the village folks and came here," Mohammed said.

The water has begun to recede in his village. "We have sent some people there. They will come back and tell us if it is safe to return and then we will go back in a couple of days," he said.

A government officer, though, was not so confident. "We don't think it is safe to send these people back for at least two months. If they return now, there are chances that more people will die of diseases than those killed in the floods," he said.

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