Rs. 1,010-crore flood relief package for Bihar

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Fleeing the floods: Villagers in Bihar’s Araria district moving to higher places to escape the rising flood waters.
Fleeing the floods: Villagers in Bihar’s Araria district moving to higher places to escape the rising flood waters.

K. Balchand

Manmohan declares Bihar floods a national calamity

PATNA: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday undertook an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas in Bihar and announced a relief package of Rs. 1,010 crore.

Dr. Singh declared the floods, caused by a breach in the Kosi embankment displacing over 1.5 million people, a national calamity. He also ordered the release of 1.25 lakh tonnes of foodgrains free of cost for distribution in the flood-hit areas.

Dr. Singh was accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Rabri Devi.

Dr. Singh promised all possible help to the State, specifically the worst-hit Supaul, Araria, Madhepura and Saharsa districts. More areas were getting inundated and numerous other embankments were under threat of being breached.

The Railways will operate 12 new pairs of trains in the affected region to help evacuate people as the situation is likely to worsen with more rains. The effort is to shift people to Saharsa and Purnia.

The government claimed that more than 1.25 lakh people were evacuated and more were now heeding its request to move to safer places.

The situation continued to cause concern with flood waters overflowing NH-107 between Maheshkut and Saharsa, the only available route for transporting Army boats to rescue trapped people. Efforts were under way to protect this vital link. Two more columns of Army boats are expected to arrive.

The top priority is to help out people in Bihpur and adjoining areas. The township faces the threat of being submerged in the new course the river has charted from the breached embankment. Katihar and Purnia districts are also under threat.

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