A damaged road in flood-hit Gopalganj on Wednesday. (PTI) n See Page 6
Patna, Aug. 16: The flood situation in Bihar is getting worse every hour with swirling waters killing and displacing more people and engulfing more districts.
The death toll touched 72 today, the number of flood-hit people rose to 73 lakh and the number of districts affected is now 16 with Gopalganj, Nalanda and Patna being the latest entries to the list.
Kishanganj, Araria, Purnea, Katihar, Supaul, Madhepura, East Champaran, West Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Madhubani are the other districts hit.
The local administration, national disaster response force (NDRF), state disaster response force, army and air force personnel have evacuated 2.75 lakh people, of which 1.16 lakh are staying in 504 relief camps.
Bad weather in West and East Champaran has hampered rescue and relief operations being conducted by air force helicopters.
Panic prevailed in Gopalganj as angry waters breached a ring bund - built to protect the main embankments of a river from direct damage - along the Gandak river at Salempur under Barauli block in the early hours today.
"Embankments have been damaged and breached at Barauli and Sadua and we are making all efforts to contain the situation," said Gopalganj district magistrate (DM) Rahul Kumar, who was working with officials, including district superintendent of police Ravi Ranjan, and villagers to save the embankments.
Engineers from the water resources department, responsible for protecting embankments, were nowhere to be seen despite SOS calls, said authoritative sources.
The huge breach swiftly increased and gushing waters hit the main Saran embankment of the Gandak at Parsauni. As a breach there would have totally submerged Gopalganj, Siwan and Saran districts, officials rushed to repair the damage with tree and bamboo spurs, bricks and sandbags and managed to prevent it from collapsing.
Water resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, however, said: "The situation at Parsauni is out of danger. We will gain complete control on the Gandak embankment there in the next seven hours. Our engineers are working to keep it secure. Floods from the Gandak is due to heavy discharge from the Valmikinagar barrage and also water overflowing from its canal systems. Embankments of canals at a few places have been damaged due to heavy pressure of water."
He said the Bagmati river was under control in Sitamarhi despite a breach in embankment at Kataunjha and seepage at a few other places.
Though water is receding in Purnea, Araria, Katihar, Sheohar and Muzaffarpur, the situation has worsened in West and East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Gopalganj and Madhepura. The north-western districts have been affected by heavy discharge of water from the Valmikinagar barrage on the Gandak in West Champaran due to very heavy rainfall in Nepal. All 36 gates of the barrage were opened to allow the maximum discharge of water since 2007. As much as 5.25 lakh cusecs of water was released on Sunday. Today it was less than 2 lakh cusecs but is expected to go up. The maximum discharge from the barrage was 6.4 lakh cusecs on July 31, 2007.
Rail routes and roads in flood-hit districts are still non-functional with waters engulfing national highways 31, 57, 106 and 107 at several places.
Railway tracks under the East Central Railway and Northeast Frontier Railway have been damaged at several places in West Champaran, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga and the worst-hit district of Katihar. Several trains have been cancelled, and many are being terminated before the flood-hit areas.
Disaster management department principal secretary Pratyaya Amrit has asked DMs of the flood-hit areas to set up community kitchens to feed the affected people.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi have postponed their programmes scheduled for tomorrow and will conduct an aerial survey of West Champaran and Gopalganj.
Though the disaster management department has listed Patna as a flood-hit district, DM Sanjay Kumar Agarwal said: "Floodwater from the Dardha river had affected areas in Dhanarua and Daniyawan blocks, but it has receded. We have conducted rescue drills and are prepared for any eventuality."
Birth on rescue boat
NDRF personnel helped a woman deliver her baby on a rescue boat today.
"The lady, Harzana Khatun of Benipatti block in Madhubani district, gave birth to a child in one of our rescue boats while being evacuated from the flooded area," said Vijay Sinha, NDRF battalion commandant in Bihar.
All NDRF boats have medical first-responders and nursing staff. Its personnel have rescued 22 pregnant women so far in Bihar.