Millions Affected by Indian Flooding

India's military has been sent into the state of Bihar, where an estimated two million people are affected by the flooded Kosi River.  At least 40 people are dead and there are fears that the breach will expand in the days ahead, which could wash away many communities. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

India's army is using 250 motor boats to try to rescue some of the people trapped by the flood waters of the Kosi River in Bihar State.  Air force helicopters are dropping food, as the scale of the disaster overwhelms the local authorities.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appealed to the national government for help.

Kumar says to call this a flood is an understatement; that it is a catastrophe. In a radio address to those in the danger zones, he pleaded with them to try to seek higher ground.

Roads and railroad tracks have been damaged by the waters, making it difficult to reach those stranded.  For those marooned along the swollen river, the situation is desperate.

This victim told reporters no help is coming from from authorities.  The frustration is reported to have provoked angry demonstrations in some communities. 

It is estimated that up to two million people have been affected after torrential rains triggered flooding.   More than a week ago, he Kosi River, which empties into the Ganges, burst its embankment upstream in Nepal and changed course.

The deluge has put about half of Bihar under water, including an estimated 36,000 hectares of standing crops.  Relief agencies estimate a quarter-million homes have been destroyed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to tour the soaked state, Thursday.

Bihar is one of India's poorest regions.  People there refer to the Kosi as the "Sorrow of Bihar" because the river floods frequently and its course is unpredictable.

Weather forecasters predict that the area will see more heavy rain, within the next several days.  That has relief agencies gearing up for the possibility of a major humanitarian crisis.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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