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India Evacuates Thousands to Avoid Floods

  • Anjana Pasricha

A man uses an umbrella to protect himself from rain as he walks through the flooded banks of river Ganga in the northern Indian city of Allahabad, Aug. 4, 2014.

A man uses an umbrella to protect himself from rain as he walks through the flooded banks of river Ganga in the northern Indian city of Allahabad, Aug. 4, 2014.

India has evacuated nearly 50,000 people from its eastern Bihar state amid fears of massive flooding from a river that originates in Nepal. The two countries coped with the potential disaster as India’s Prime Minister made a strong push to reinvigorate ties with its tiny Himalayan neighbor during a two-day stop in Kathmandu.

Officials raced Monday to move scores of villages out of a vast swath of land in the Indian state of Bihar that faces the risk of being inundated with waters from the Kosi River.

Fears of flooding were triggered after a deadly landslide on Saturday in Nepal, where the Kosi River originates, left behind debris that has blocked the river.

Engineers in Nepal are conducting controlled blasts to release the body of accumulated water. This has raised fears that it will rush downstream into India.

Bihar’s chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi, appealed to people to leave the areas under threat.

He urged people to set aside worries of their homes and belongings, and move into relief camps. He said particularly women, children and the elderly people should promptly evacuate their homes.

The people have been housed in more than 100 relief camps. Air force helicopters and disaster response teams have been deployed.

Modi in Kathmandu to reinvigorate ties

The two countries coped with the threat of flooding as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up a two-day visit to Nepal.

During the visit - the first by an Indian leader to Nepal in 17 years - Modi focused on setting aside the neglect and mistrust that have clouded ties.

He announced a $1 billion line of credit during an address to Nepalese lawmakers on Sunday.

Modi assured Nepal that India’s only objective is to boost the country’s development.

The Indian leader told the Nepalese parliament that he wants to help develop highways, information networks and trans ways, or transmission lines, in Nepal. He said this will help the country integrate with the rest of the world.

Landlocked Nepal is dependent on India for its energy supplies and nearly all its trade.

Modi also offered to help develop tourism and hydropower projects.

The Indian leader eased Nepalese fears of Indian interference in its affairs, saying New Delhi only wants to lend a helping hand in integrating the country in South Asia.

Nepal’s fractious political parties have been struggling to write a constitution after the country abolished its monarchy in 2008. The Indian leader underlined the advantages of completing the process, but stressed that New Delhi would not interfere.

Positive response

At Kathmandu’s Centre for Policy Studies, Director Rajju Malla Dhakal said Modi’s outreach to Nepal got a hugely positive response.

“It's every euphoric, specially after his address yesterday. There is a lot of optimism. He was deliberately trying to iron out some of the differences, even in his speech,” said Dhakal.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal is part of a regional diplomacy push in which he has put a priority on building bridges with neighbors. He sees that as crucial to his goal of turning India into an economic powerhouse and counterbalancing China, which has also been making a push into the region.

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