50,000 people refuse evacuation after flooding in India caused by river changing course

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The effect of the flooding
Image: Manoj nav .

The Kosi River changed course one week ago to a path which it has not taken for over 100 years. While 900,000 people were evacuated by rescue workers, new data has revealed that 50,000 people, from the town of Saharsa, have refused to leave their homes.

Advertisements in local newspapers have been used to encourage the people who are still remaining in the area to leave soon. People are encouraged to go to one of many camps, which are funded by the government, to seek refuge from the continued flooding.

People have also started to return to their homes, due to the fact that they have seen the water level drop by over half of a metre in some areas. This is despite statements by officials emphasizing that people may need to stay in the camps for up to six months.

Approximately 1.2 million people are estimated to have had their homes flooded by the disaster. 42 people have been confirmed dead, although The Australian has reported that the actual death toll is likely to be much higher.

The incident started when gushing waters quickly overflowed the channel boundaries on both sides at a rate of about 200 meters per day, flooding vast tracts in Supaul, Araria, Saharsa, Madhepura, Purnia, Katihar, parts of Khagaria and northern parts of Bhagalpur, as well as adjoining regions of Nepal. About 2.7 million people are affected by this flood disaster of massive dimensions, with about 900,000 people in the affected areas having moved to 285 relief camps and 249 health centers. An estimated 100,000 are still trapped in various villages without food or drinking water since several days ago when the crisis began.

During the last 250 years, the Kosi has moved its path up to 150km westward on multiple occasions, leaving behind a series of paleochannels. The river is a tributary of the Ganges, with catchment areas in the Nepal Himalayas, one of the fastest rising mountain chains, flowing through a 150-kilometer wide and 180-kilometer long alluvial fan. Fast silting of the channels by the tons of annuvium brought down by the river makes it drift off so often that it is often cited as one of the text book examples of a dynamic river system to geologists.

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