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  • Villagers use a makeshift raft to cross a flooded area on the outskirts of Agartala, India July 15, 2019.

    Villagers use a makeshift raft to cross a flooded area on the outskirts of Agartala, India July 15, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 July 2019
Opinion

Some 67 people have been killed in the state of Bihar and 4.5 million residents affected by the floods so far, and water levels are still rising.

Residents in the Indian state of Bihar are hungry and in despair as their hatched hut homes have been washed away, crops devastated, entire communities cut-off and roads and bridges destroyed from the massive rains and flooding in the region since last week.

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Bihar is no stranger to floods, and is usually one of the worst-affected states during the annual monsoons. However, as one of the poorest areas in all of South Asia, residents feel helpless as they are once-again faced with the deluge.

This year's floods—caused by torrential rains in Bihar and from neighboring upstream Nepal—have been unrelenting.

"When many of us poor people drown, then the politicians suddenly take notice, ... but otherwise, nobody cares about us," shopkeeper Raj Majhi told AFP news agency.

Majhi's home, like many others, is submerged with just its rooftop peaking out from high floodwaters. He and his family have found their way to a small patch of land beside a highway where they cook on a small stove.

In Sitamarhi district, roads and homes are flooded as far as the eye can see. Marooned villagers, tired from hours of wading through the churning waters, wait for help to arrive on small islands of higher ground.

Farmer Sonabati Devi managed to save some of her goats, but not much more.

"We left the house to save ourselves and left everything behind," she said, sitting under a makeshift tent—one of many that have popped up around Sitamarhi using meagre household materials that villagers managed to salvage and use for refuge.

In areas where floodwaters have eased slightly, villagers cram into small, wooden boats or swim home to retrieve belongings.

Some have received khichdi, an Indian porridge made with rice and lentils, from the government.

"My children keep asking me for food and say they are hungry, but what can we do?," said Nima Devi, who only eats once a day with her children when the khichdi is distributed.

But many others are going hungry, with next to no food supplies and only the clothes on their back.

No extreme warnings have been issued by national weather bureau for the days ahead, although rains could continue.

But even when the water retreats, villagers face the daunting task of cleaning up homes now littered with rubbish accumulated by the floods.

At least 5.8 million people have been displaced as of July 18, a million more than on Monday. Some 30 have died in the past two weeks in the tea-growing state of Assam due to the monsoon rains, local government officials said. In Nepal, at least 30 people have died from the rains, and over 100 across the most affected area, including Bangladesh.

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