Homes dearer than life to Bihar's flood victims

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Madhepura (Bihar), Sept 7 : People in flood-ravaged Madhepura District of Bihar refused to vacate their homes saying its better to die than lose their precious homes.

Authorities recently airdropped leaflets to villagers, appealing for thousands of people remaining in their homes to evacuate as heavy rains risked more flooding.

But many refused to budge, fighting starvation and possible death. It's a catch-22 situation for the flood victims.

If they remain at home they could be swamped by the floodwaters. If they leave for relief camps, nothing may be left when they come back.

Bhuginder Manda lives alone in his house that looks like a lake and survives mostly on uncooked rice bran, risking death by water borne diseases.

"I have sent my children and my wife. Now I will survive here only; I'll live and die in this house. I just get uncooked rice bran to eat, don't get anything else. Government will provide whatever help it can, and if they don't then I have self-surrendered, they should leave me alone in this house itself," said Munda with tears in his eyes.

The district administration sends boats to evacuate the villagers but the poverty-ridden people say death by starving is a better proposition. "Administration has sent me here for four-five times now (to take them to safety). But people here are not ready to leave. They say they don't want to leave their property and are ready to die in their homes," said Vinod Kumar, boatman sent by the district administration.

The floods have forced more than three million people from their homes, destroyed 250,000 acres of farmland and killed at least 90 people.

Media reports say the toll is at least ten times higher, after the Kosi river, which originates in Nepal, burst a dam last month and unleashed the worst flooding in Bihar in 50 years.

Millions of people are now living on embankments, roads and in overcrowded camps making them extremely vulnerable to infections and water-borne diseases in the absence of drinking water, aid agencies said.

The flooding was caused after the Kosi River breached a dam in Nepal. This unleashed huge wave of water that smashed mud embankments downstream in Bihar.

The waters of Kosi, known as Bihar's 'river of sorrow' for its regular floods and tendency to change course, gushed into the State inundating vast areas and affecting around two million people.

Home to 90 million people, Bihar is one of India's poorest states and nearly 56 per cent of its young children are malnourished, far higher than the 43 per cent average nationally, UNICEF officials said.

ANI

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