Floods that have hit 20 of Bihar’s 38 districts and killed 253 people so far, are threatening the state capital Patna , as the water in the Ganges is rising steadily.
People have become worried, the price of food grains are on the rise.
The river was 20 cm below the danger level of 48.6 m at Gandhi Ghat on Sunday, and 30 cms below the danger level of 50.45cm at Digha on the outskirts of the city.
Water from the Ganga has already disrupted the land route to Bind Toli located in the diara (riverine) area near the state capital and the water was almost reached the ground floors of the houses built along the riverfront.
The Punpun and Falgu rivers are also flowing above the danger level. The Punpun was flowing 1.11 metres above the danger level at Sampat Chowk on the outskirts of Patna and was 64cm above the danger level at Dhanarua, spilling floodwaters on to Fatuha, Punpun and Masaurhi areas.
51 more flood-related deaths were recorded across Bihar on Sunday.
Purnea, Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria, Supaul, Madhepura, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, East Champaran, West Champaran, Gopalganj, Saran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Khagaria, Nalanda and Patna are the districts affected so far.
Araria has recorded 57 deaths, while 31 people lost their lives in Sitamarhi, 29 in West Champaran and 23 in Katihar. The toll is expected to rise further as the rescue and relief teams fish out more bodies, and road and telecommunication links with far-flung areas in flood-ravaged districts are restored ensuring better flow of information. No flood-related deaths have been reported from the affected districts of Samastipur, Nalanda, and Patna.
The flood has impacted the lives of 12.7 million so far. The rescue teams have evacuated 722,000 people, of which 422,000 are staying at relief camps.
Some 490,000 people are being fed at 2,569 community kitchens that have been set up in the flood-ravaged districts. Swirling waters breached the right embankment of the Burhi Gandak river in Mushahri block of Muzaffarpur at around 4 am on Sunday, inundating newer areas in the district.
The situation in Khagaria and Samastipur districts remained precarious as the water level in the Bagmati and Kosi rivers was not subsiding as expected. The pressure of river water on embankments in Bithan and Kalyanpur blocks in Samastipur was increasing and seepages were occurring. The district administration was making efforts to contain them.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday undertook an aerial survey of East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Patna districts to assess the situation. Water resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and Atish Chandra, secretary to the chief minister, accompanied Nitish during the survey.
The wide swathe of areas affected by floods is also going to impact food security in the state in the coming months. Water has damaged crops sown over around 6.5 lakh hectares. Once the floodwaters recede, heavy silt and sand deposits are also going to adversely impact huge expanses of agricultural fields.
Agriculture department special secretary and principal secretary in-charge Ravindra Nath Rai said the figures of crop damage are preliminary estimates and a survey to assess the situation in its entirety is going on.
The 38 districts of Bihar had 30 lakh hectares under cultivation when the floods hit on August 12.
Agriculture minister Prem Kumar reviewed the situation on Sunday and directed the officials to complete the crop-damage survey on war footing and send the assessment to the disaster management department as soon as possible. “Not only have crops been damaged, but heavy siltation of fields has happened and clearing it will be a huge challenge,” the minister said. “I have asked my officials to contact the central government and prepare an action plan to remove excess silt. We will also ensure alternative crops and their sowing for the flood-hit farmers once the floodwaters recede.”
Flood victims blocked national highway 101 in Gopalganj for several hours on Sunday to protest what they called the lack of adequate relief and demanded that the government pay attention to their woes. Efforts to restore damaged roads and drinking water facilities continued across the state.