Death Toll Rises To 28 In Bihar;IAF Chopper Air Drops Relief

Patna: Devastated by a spell of torrential rains lasting over three days, claiming at least 28 lives, Bihar on Monday trudged towards normalcy with intensified relief and rescue work in badly affected localities including the state capital.

While people tried resuming normal business under an overcast sky, but weather department predicted fresh showers may lash the state any time.

The inundation of many parts of Patna, which has left residents scurrying for shelter,also saw Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi being “rescued” by a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) boat and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan putting up at a hotel instead of their house in a posh locality of the city.

Three fresh deaths caused by drowning were reported in the afternoon, one from Nawada and two from Jehanabad districts, raising the toll to 28. Unconfirmed reports however maintained that the number of casualties was far in excess of 30.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accompanied by minister for water resources Sanjay Jha and Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar, conducted an aerial survey of the flooded areas before reviewing the situation across the state at a high-level meeting where he interacted with district-level officials through video conferencing.

A chopper of the Indian Air Force arrived in the city by noon, upon request from the state government, and commenced air-dropping of food and other relief material to people living in low-lying areas where water level is said to be several feet deep.

“Distribution of relief and rescue of stranded people will pick up speed on Tuesday as water would be flushed out with the help of pumps being brought here from Bilaspur. We are also gearing up to meet the challenge of infectious diseases that are known to strike water-logged areas”, the Chief Secretary told reporters after the meeting.

Well-heeled people stood haplessly on the terraces or roofs of their houses, trying to catch packets that were dropped by the helicopter or hurled at them from boats ferried by the NDRF and the SDRF.

“More than 200 personnel are involved in rescuing people from marooned localities and distribution of relief material to those stranded in inaccessible areas with the help of 36 boats which are plying through Patna”, Commandant, NDRF 9th Battalion Vijay Sinha said.

“Across the state, 18 of our teams are working round the clock and have so far rescued more than 3,000 people”, he added.

Former Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, won many hearts in the state capital as he rode an NDRF speed boat ferrying through heavily water-logged streets of Rajendra Nagar, distributing cash, edibles and packaged water bottles.

Modi, who had been conspicuous by his absence at meetings and functions for the past couple of days, on Monday morning moved out of his Rajendra Nagar residence along with family members.

News channels beamed reports of the Deputy CM having “been rescued” after remaining “stranded” for three days.

However, an official attached to him clarified “it was not that the Deputy CM was helplessly marooned inside his own house. He had chosen not to venture out earlier since he did not wish the rescue teams to be disturbed and he had not anticipated that the rainfall would be so heavy that pumping water out of the streets may take several days”.

Wearing a T-shirt and shorts, the normally affable Modi appeared grim when he stopped for a few minutes at the Rajendra Nagar fly-over and left after issuing instructions to officials without taking any questions from a posse of prying journalists.

The Paswans, who have been here since Sunday, gave their Shri Krishna Puri house a slip and put up at a city hotel.

Private air carriers GoAir and IndiaGo came out with the offer of “full cancellation fee waiver” as flights were diverted to alternative destinations in view of the bad weather prevailing in the Bihar capital.

Commercial hubs like Fraser Road and Boring Road saw some of the shops being reopened after remaining shut for two days while the streets which are normally jammed with vehicles witnessed thinner than usual traffic though a definite improvement compared to the last couple of days when youngsters were seen playing volleyball right in the middle of the roads in ankle-deep water.

Chief Public Relation Officer of East Central Railway (ECR) Rajesh Kumar said in a release that route of some trains passing through Patna which was diverted via Kiul-Gaya section due to rain, has been restored back to its original route.