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Alert off, hygiene eludes villagers

Thousands of people living in 100 and odd villages of Mahishi and Nauhatta blocks in Saharsa district continued to be in panic on Tuesday even as the government withdrew red alert from all nine north Bihar districts.

“There was utter chaos at the relief camps at Nauhatta block on Tuesday. One of the main problems was toilet. Since these camps have been set up in schools, thus they were small for adults. Only four to six toilets were made available to the villagers. Women faced a lot of problem in access to the toilets,” said Amit Anand, a resident and social activist of Mahishi.

Nauhatta and Mahishi were assumed to be the first few places to be hit by the swollen Kosi in case of flood-like conditions.

As an estimated population of around 1 lakh people was expected to be affected by the deluge, the district administration had started making evacuations from Saturday afternoon, within a few hours of the landslide in Sunkosi river — a tributary of the Kosi in its upstream in Nepal.

Some villagers at the relief camps also complained about the quality of food served. “Sub-standard food was being served at the relief camp here. No monitoring was done on the quality of food. When we asked from where the food is coming, no one gave us any clear reply. It is already rainy season and the quality of food normally deteriorates these days. That’s why we were more concerned about its quality,” said Inderdev Yadav of Akadh village at Nauhatta.

Women also have their own set of complaints.

“The camps are overcrowded and there is no separate arrangement for toilets for women. We had to wait as much as 30 minutes to an hour even to relive ourselves. Children were equally annoyed,” said Urmila Devi at a relief camp at Middle School, Akadh village, Nauhatta.

Though people from most villages were reluctant to go to the relief camps on Saturday but they gradually had to move on Sunday and Monday. Arrival of rescue agencies, including Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), also prompted many villagers to leave their houses during the last couple of days.

Some villagers at the relief camps also complained about lack of fodder for cattle. “We were forcibly evacuated from our houses by the rescuers because of the flood threat. Though we are getting food at the relief camps but there is very less fodder available here. Thankfully, the red alert has been lifted. Otherwise we were concerned about the health of our cattle,” said Jawahar Yadav, resident of Rasalpur village, Nauhatta.

Hundreds of villagers had also taken shelter on the Kosi Mahasetu over the past three days but most of them had left by Tuesday evening. “Police were patrolling the Kosi Mahasetu on Tuesday evening,” said Amit of Mahishi.

The 1.878km-long and 20.76m-wide Kosi Mahasetu was inaugurated on February 6, 2014. It provides connectivity across the Kosi within Supaul district as well as between Madhubani and Supaul districts. People residing on the Kosi embankment in Saharsa and Nauhatta had also started going back home by Tuesday evening.


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