Over half a million people have been affected by floods in Bihar, with thousands forced to flee their homes, reviving fears of the 2008 devastation, officials said Wednesday.
The flooding has enveloped parts of West Champaran, Gopalganj, Saharsa, Muzaffarpur and Araria districts following heavy rains in the state and in the areas closer to Nepal.
Waters entered houses in more than 100 villages, forcing thousands to take shelter along highways and in school and other buildings, officials from the water resources and the disaster management told IANS.
"Floods have affected more than three lakh people," one official said.
The Kosi, which played havoc in Bihar three years ago rendering three million people homeless, was again swelling dangerously due to heavy rains in Nepal, the officials said.
A worried Bihar government has sounded a state-wide alert, Water Resources Development Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary told IANS.
He said a National Disaster Response Team was camping in Saharsa with four boats.
Rail traffic on the Narkatiaganj-Raxaul section was suspended after floodwaters submerged railway tracks and entered Sikta railway station in West Champaran.
In Sitamarhi district, a Border Security Force (BSF) camp at Sonbarsa was flooded. The BSE personnel had to abandon the camp.
The Kosi is posing a threat to its eastern embankment. The rain swollen Gandak was threatening a newly-built embankment in Gopalganj district, a disaster management department official said.
However, Choudhary said there was no need to panic. "The government is ready to face any eventuality."
He conceded that many villages could be flooded.
Choudhary said the eastern Kosi embankment, which breached in 2008 flooding five districts of north Bihar, was safe.
In 2008, over three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course. It was said to be the worst flood in the state in 50 years.
According to the water resources department, a lot of water has been discharged into the Kosi in the last one week after heavy rains in Nepal and in Bihar.
Three days ago, the Bagmati river breached its embankment in Muzaffarpur district.