Indian military struggling to end flood chaos

Troops and aid workers are scrambling to reach hundreds of thousands of stranded people across flood-devastated northern India in one of the country's largest-ever relief efforts, as hungry villagers began to riot, desperate families swam for their lives and widespread chaos ruled.

Nearly half of the 1.2 million people left homeless when the Kosi River burst its banks in Nepal two weeks ago, spilling over north India's vast plains, had been rescued said Prataya Amrit, a top disaster management official in Bihar state. Despite disjointed efforts, officials hoped to reach the rest in the next two days.

The massive relief effort was the first to deploy all three branches of India's military — the army, the navy, and the air force, Amrit said.

Even as more than 5,000 troops fanned out across the state to rescue marooned communities and provide much-needed food and medicine, new areas flooded and cut off still more villages.

The road linking Saharia village to the rest of the hard-hit Saharsa district washed away Monday. Villagers waded through neck-deep waters carrying bicycles above their heads and bags of clothes on their shoulders.

"The water came on Saturday and since then no government officials have come to us," said Ram Bachan Rai, 60.

Rajendra Sah, 43, was one of many to complain that authorities were not distributing aid equally. "Influential people are taking all the relief materials," he said.

There were also scattered reports of looting across the region. "People came in a boat and took away the grain we had stored on the roof," said Chetu Yadav, a Saharia resident. "They were armed so we were afraid to challenge them."

Nearby, aid workers from UNICEF and the European Union tried to work out how best to provide help. "We are going from place to place trying to assess the needs of the people, see what gaps there are and how we can fill it," Malini Morzaria of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department said as she waded through knee-deep water.

The government has set up relief centers in schools across the region, and thousands of people crowded into the buildings for hot meals of rice and lentils. Many also brought along their cattle and goats.

With the numbers in the camps expected to nearly double in the coming days, there were fears the crowded and often-unsanitary conditions could lead to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

The United Nations warned "the heat, combined with limited supplies of safe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, poses a great risk of water- and vector-borne diseases."

The relief was disjointed, and many areas saw displaced people camped out on whatever high ground they could find — embankments, railway tracks, bridges.

In Madhepura, one of the biggest flooded towns, residents stormed a government office late last night throwing stones and demanding food, television news reports showed.

Officials say the flooding is expected to continue until November when the last of the monsoon rains taper off. Only then will they be able to plug the breach in the Kosi River that is more than a mile wide and growing.

The river, which flows down from the Himalayas into India where it joins the Ganges River, dramatically changed course after the breach, moving dozens of miles to the east and turning hundreds of square miles of land into a virtual lake.

Officials don't yet have a precise tally of those killed, but estimates range from scores to thousands. On Friday, 19 people drowned when their rescue boat capsized.

While Bihar, one of India's poorest states, is used to flooding from the annual monsoon, this year's floods have been particularly devastating because they have hit areas that normally remain dry and lack the infrastructure to deal with the rising waters.

Meanwhile in the northeastern state of Assam, monsoon floods submerged roughly 1,500 villages, drowning 15 people and displacing hundreds of thousands, said the state's Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Bhumidhar Barman. State authorities were working hard to reach affected areas, Barman said.

Two of Assam's major rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Barak, are flowing above the danger levels at more than a dozen places in different parts of the state, according to a bulletin issued by the Central Water Commission, a federal flood monitoring agency.

The monsoon season, which starts in June, brings rain vital for the farmers of South Asia but also can cause massive destruction.

In neighboring Bangladesh, flooding has cut off at least 50,000 people as a flood warning agency forecast the situation was "likely to deteriorate." News reports said three people drowned yesterday in flood-ravaged areas north of the capital of Dhaka.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT Teacher - Scunthorpe This r...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence