More than half a million people have been affected by floods in Bihar, which have so far claimed the lives of seven people and forced thousands to flee their homes, officials said today.
Hundreds of villages in Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, Katihar and Muzaffarpur districts have been flooded in the aftermath of heavy rain. Rains were heavy also in neighbouring Nepal, the catchment area of the rivers flowing into the state.
Bihar Chief Secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha told reporters that the floods have affected more than 1.98 lakh people in Kishanganj and 2.94 lakh people in Purnea. Besides, over one lakh people were affected in Araria, Katihar and Muzaffarpur districts.
Mr Sinha said five deaths occurred in Kishanganj, and two in Purnea.
The state government has announced compensation of Rs.1.5 lakh to the kin of each of those killed.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed serious concern over the alarming flood situation, and directed officials to open relief camps and speed up rescue operations in affected areas, an official in the chief minister's office said.
According to officials of the disaster management department, two teams each of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed for rescue operations, and officials concerned have been alerted.
The water resources development department has directed its engineers to keep a 24-hour vigil for the protection of embankments.
With water level rising in the rivers like Mahananda, Bagmati, Kamla Balan, Gandak, Budhi Gandak and Kosi since Wednesday, hundreds of other villages in over half a dozen districts face a threat of flooding.
Bihar Water Resources Development Minister Vijay Kumar said all embankments were safe, and there was no need to panic.
He said the eastern Kosi embankment, which had breached in 2008, flooding five districts of northern Bihar, was totally safe.
"The embankment was strengthened and breach repair work was completed," he said.
In 2008, more than three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course.
It was said to be the worst flood in Bihar in the last 50 years.