The floods in Bihar claimed at least 18 lives till Friday and hit as many districts in the northern parts of the state, leaving nearly one million affected by the deluge, the state's disaster management department said.
Heavy rainfalls caused the rivers to swell, leading to breach in embankments at more than one place. The state government said repair work would resume only after two-three days, during which the downpour is expected to become less intense.
In the meantime, help will be sought from the Indian Air Force so that relief material could be dropped for people marooned in places, which have become inaccessible.
According to the bulletin issued by the state's disaster management department, West Champaran district, situated along the border with Nepal and through which flows the Gandak river, originating in the neighbouring country and currently in full spate, has borne the brunt accounting for seven of the deaths.
It is home to about 1.43 lakh people affected by the floods, out of whom more than 5,000 have so far been evacuated and taken to safer places by two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and one of the SDRF.
Other districts reporting flood-related deaths were Darbhanga (one) and Sitamarhi (two). Darbhanga also has the largest number of people hit by the floods, which has affected 3.46 lakh population there.
So far, 9.46 lakh people have been hit by the deluge across the state.
Other districts affected by the floods are East Champaran, Sheohar, Supaul, Kishanganj, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj and Khagaria.
A total of 22 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the
State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) are involved in the rescue operations, which have resulted in safe evacuation of 93.89 lakh people so far, out of whom more than 12,000 have taken shelter at 22 relief camps.
In addition, 271 community kitchens were functioning, catering to about 1.15 lakh people, said the departments bulletin.
Earlier, panic prevailed in Gopalganj when the Saran embankment was breached at various places by the Gandak river, imperiling close to 50,000 residents of 45 villages in the district.
Water also inundated the National Highway 28, bringing to grinding halt traffic on the road that connects Gopalganj to many adjoining districts and Gorakhpur in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh.
State Water Resources Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha said, "It is completely surprising for us that breach has occurred at places which have not witnessed any such thing in the past. There is a strong current in the flood water that has put pressure on embankments."
The minister was talking to reporters in the state capital after an emergency aerial tour of Gopalganj and adjoining East Champaran, where the Gandak had caused a similar breach in an embankment.
He said the breaches were 35 to 40 meters wide and the state government has requested the IAF to provide a helicopter for distribution of food packets which is expected to arrive by Saturday.
He also said that rainfall in the area has been forecast to be light to moderate for the next two-three days and expressed confidence that this would enable the engineers to carry out repair of the embankments fast.