More than 300,000 people trapped in India’s worst floods in 50 years have been rescued, but nearly double that number remain stranded without food or water, officials said yesterday.
About 60 people have died and 3 million people have been affected since the Kosi River breached its banks earlier this month on the border with Nepal and changed course, swamping hundreds of villages in eastern Bihar state.
“Large-scale evacuation will continue till all the marooned people are rescued in the next three to four days,” disaster management official Prataya Amrit said.
The government said the situation was unlikely to return to normal for months and UNICEF voiced fears about illnesses breaking out at congested relief camps.
“We will have to provide food and shelter to the survivors until October as they will not be able to return home,” Bihar Disaster Management Minister Nitish Mishra said.
The government has set up more than 100 shelters, but officials said nearly 600,000 people were still waiting to be rescued.
The floods have caused extensive damage and disruption to roads, water and electricity supplies in the affected areas, UNICEF said.
“Essential commodities including food are now being transported by boat,” the UN body said in a statement.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Nepal, where thousands of Indians seeking shelter from floods in Bihar have also migrated.
At least 15 people died and some were still missing after an army rescue boat carrying flood survivors capsized on Friday.
Soldiers were facing problems tracing possible survivors because of strong currents, disaster management official R.K Singh said.
A family trapped on a tractor for several days made desperate pleas to be rescued as flood waters rose steadily around them, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
“We have been stuck here for the past 10 days with no rescue team reaching here. Our food and water stocks have run out. Our mobiles [phones] are working, but they too will fail any moment,” Laxmi Singh told the newspaper by telephone.
Survivors at relief shelters said they were not getting anything to eat.
“We have absolutely nothing with us here. We left everything behind,” one woman at a crowded relief camp told NDTV news network.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the situation as a “national calamity” and announced a relief package of US$228 million and 125,000 tonnes of grain.