Desperation for India's flood victims

The noise of a hovering helicopter quickly draws villagers in eastern India, desperate for food and fresh water, from their partly flooded huts.

Desperation for India's flood victims
The noise of a hovering helicopter quickly draws villagers in eastern India, desperate for food and fresh water, from their partly flooded huts.

But hopes that relief has arrived are soon dashed as the chopper, loaded with emergency supplies, turns away, its crew deciding for safety reasons against landing in driving rain.

"There is just nothing left to eat," said drenched farmer Ashish Thakur in submerged Kaanti village in Darbhanga district.

"Even the relief helicopters are not landing anymore," he said.

"People are fighting for food like dogs, I have no strength left," the farmer wept, hugging his two hungry children and shivering wife.

Darbhanga is among the 14 worst-hit districts in the poverty-ridden state of Bihar where nearly seven million people have been struck by annual monsoon floods that have engulfed thousands of villages.

"We anticipated some floods and stored some food stocks but it was impossible for us to imagine in advance that it would be so bad," Darbhanga administrator Upendra Sharma told AFP.

Some 700 of Darbhanga's 1,200 villages are "fully or partly submerged" affecting around 2.1 million people, the official said in his headquarters in Darbangha district town, where foliage-laden muddy water was surging in.

The annual monsoon regularly brings flooding to the subcontinent but this year has seen some of the worst in recent times, claiming over 1,100 lives.

Relief teams in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are battling to bring food, clean drinking water and medicines to nearly 20 million people stranded across the region by the massive flooding.

In India's Darbhanga district, the rains, far heavier than usual, have cut roads and rail lines, officials said.

"Compared to the 280 millimetres (11 inches) of rains we recorded during all of the last monsoon, we received 873 millimetres (34.3 inches) in July alone. It's raining non-stop," said Sharma.

"All links are down — road, rail and air — everything. Only telephones are working," he said.

Rising waters have shut down the area's main hospital and 45 girls have been stranded in their school in the district town for a week after swirling waters rose rapidly around their classrooms.

Villagers have been shouting moral support to them from a distance but, with no boat available, they have been unable to cross the waters to reach them, officials said.

The situation was also grim in the sleepy town of Leheriasarai.

"Every inch of our town is under water and food and milk have vanished from the market," said resident Dabloo Shankar.

"The authorities have vanished and there are no more helicopter relief sorties," said Prasan Kumar of nearby Shugoli village, staring at the rain-swollen clouds.

"We will soon be eating off the ground as we haven't had a single morsel to share among the five of us in the past four days," the man said of his family.

Administrator Sharma said he had set up 396 emergency kitchens to make food for marooned people but the effort was proving to be a drop in the ocean.

"We need help and very quickly," said a volunteer at a privately run relief agency supplying medicine to the district, where submerged graveyards also pose a looming health hazard.


AFP
Last Mod: 03 Ağustos 2007, 15:05
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