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Rescue Efforts Mounted in India's Flood-Stricken Bihar State

Hundreds of additional troops have been deployed in India's flood-stricken state of Bihar, where nearly two and a half million people are homeless. Officials in Bihar say the floods have killed at least 80 people - a figure they expect to rise. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, a massive rescue and relief operation is underway, but it is struggling to cope with the scale of the disaster.

Hundreds of naval boats were pressed into service Monday to evacuate tens of thousands of people still stranded in villages swamped by flood waters of the Kosi
River in the eastern India state of Bihar.

Nearly two weeks after the river burst its banks, and submerged vast tracts across one of India's poorest states, many areas are still waiting for help.

The government says its main focus is to rescue people and house them in state-run relief camps. The army is spearheading the rescue effort.

A top official in the state's disaster management department, R.K. Singh, told VOA News on Monday, that authorities are getting a grip on the situation.

"You know about 2.5 million people were affected and they were (at one time) stranded in the midst of the new current [river changed course] now we have just about 150,000 odd people trapped at various places, who we are rescuing," Singh said. "We have about 1,100 boats and motorboats functioning in the area, we have about 15 army columns, about 3,000 personnel of police and paramilitary forces carrying out rescue. By and large our evacuation of the stranded people, will be completed by tomorrow evening [Tuesday evening] or [at the] latest by [the] day after tomorrow [Wednesday]."

But the wait has been too long for those who are have been stranded for days. The victims have taken shelter wherever they can - on roofs of school buildings, temples
or any area that remains above water. Many are desperate as they struggle to survive without fresh food or water.

This victim repeats a common tale. He says he has lost everything, there are no stocks of food grains left, his animals are stuck in the flood waters and he is hungry.

An estimated 250,000 people are now in camps. Doctors and medical equipment are also being rushed to the camps to ward off outbreaks of disease.

Flood waters began flowing into Bihar when a dam located on the Kosi River in Nepal burst on August 18 causing the river to breach its embankments and change its
course. The disaster is the worst to affect the state in 50 years.

The situation is also grim in Nepal, where officials say disease is spreading among people affected by the flood waters.