Cover Story

Nature’s wrath

Published On: August 18, 2017 07:25 PM NPT By: Republica

In Vajani VDC in Tikapur, the water level after the floods hasn’t receded yet. In four different wards of the area, most of the land is still submerged under water, and houses in these areas are completely inundated by the floods as well. Almost 4000 houses are estimated to have been affected so far. 

The residents of Vajani have left their homes and are seeking shelter in places where the water level isn’t dangerously high. According to Chet Raj Upadhyay, president of Red Cross Vajani, even those who dared to return home have been advised to find shelter in safer grounds. 

“The houses started collapsing because many were made of wood and we feared more people would lose their lives if they got caught in the rubble,” he explains adding that the relief materials that have been collected for these people haven’t been able to reach them and are currently being stored at Vajani Bazaar.

“We are trying to distribute relief materials but the water level is still dangerously high making many places inaccessible,” he says adding that they need boats to get from one place to another but they don’t have enough of those either. Even the postal highway is inaccessible but there are still 240 families living around the Pathraiya bridge, and relief materials haven’t been able to reach them too. 

However, people here have managed to construct temporary huts while some use tarps for a little protection against the rain. According to Krishna Prasad Dhamala, officer at the ward office, it might be a week or more till they might be able to return to what’s left of their homes. “Right now, it’s the elderly, disabled, and the children who are suffering the most,” he says adding that one can even see animals talking shelter next to the families that once reared them. 

At ward number six in Tikapur, almost 300 families are currently taking shelter at a local school. According to Jagadishwor Pandit, president of Red Cross Tikapur, around 600 families have been affected by floods in the area. Pandit also mentions that they too haven’t been able to distribute relief packages in many places and that only some people have received help while many continue to suffer.  

Ranjana Sada, a resident of Kusaha, Saptari, who was cooking food under a tarp, says that they have received no help from the local authorities despite their claims and other victims are also in agreement. 

Over at ward number nine too people are taking shelter at the view tower. Bhojraj Dhungana, a resident of the ward, says that many health problems like fever, nausea, and vomiting can be seen in people taking shelter there. “Health care has become a necessity but many don’t have access to it yet,” he says adding that there are health camps being run in Vajani VDC and Tikapur.  

The locals say that the floods this time around has been the largest the area has ever faced. Prior to this, a flood in 2040 BS had caused much destruction. This time around because huge floods hit twice, in a gap of a week, their houses couldn’t dry out and they were left with nowhere to go. 

In Itahari, at Sunsari, Morang, out of the nine people who lost their lives, five families have been provided with Rs 10,000 each. Meanwhile, security personnel are engaged in clearing away the debris collected over houses that still stand and rescuing victims. Most of the displaced families are seeking shelter at temples and schools whereas a few have moved in with their relatives. 
“My children and I am currently seeking shelter at Krishna Pranami temple. Since my husband doesn’t live with us, I have to take care of my kids alone,” says Rita Barayeli, a resident of Gahiri Village in Itahari. Like Rita, there are 150 people taking shelter at the temple. Fortunately, the temple authorities provide them meals as well. 

Initially, there were only 500-600 people living there but the count recently reached 1200. Lalo Shah lost his 30-year-old wife, Mala, and 10-year-old daughter, Sithi, to the flood. He is now carrying out the death rituals at the Krishna Pranami temple.

“According to the sub-metropolitan office’s report, 500 families totaling to 3000 people have been displaced,” says Mayor Harikalal Chaudhary.   

The situation is similar at Saptari where there are over a thousand tents set up along the eight-kilometer long western Koshi embankment where over 5000 people are looking for shelter. Animals are also living with people and there is a dearth of food and medicines. Not only that, in the past two days, the flood victims here have also had to battle the scorching heat during the day and live in constant fear of snakes, scorpions, and crocodiles at night. 

Parvati Khang, who has been taking shelter along with her children at the embankment, says the fact that they don’t know when they will be able to return home is what causes much distress. “We just have a tarp for some shade and, for food, we depend on beaten and puffed rice that occasionally comes our way,” she says adding that sometimes they manage to cook a little rice and pulses that relatives bring over. 

Bhagirath Pandey, CDO of Saptari, says that relief distribution is underway and food and medicines are being provided to the victims. But Ranjana Sada, a resident of Kusaha, Saptari, who was cooking food under a tarp, says that they have received no help from the local authorities despite their claims and other victims are also in agreement. “I’m struggling to feed my children,” says Ranjana adding that many elderly people in the group have fallen sick as well but they have received no help at all except substandard food items. 

Home minster Janardhan Sharma who recently visited Saptari instructed the local authorities to distribute relief materials in an effective manner. Minister of Supplies, Shiv Kumar Mandal said that the government has more than enough relief materials to provide to the victims and that it will try to effectively distribute them in the coming days. 

Reacting to a statement made by former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to be patient and courageous, the victims at Saptari said that they have been displaying enormous strength and willpower to battle the floods but they are disheartened by the government’s ineffectiveness in rescue and aid distribution. 

Case in point, in Rautahat, there are 400,000 victims but the government has only sent 21,000 tents. However, the CDO of Rautahat, Udhab Bahadur Thapa, mentions that they haven’t been able to distribute all the tents that they have received because of damaged road networks. But they are trying their best, he claims. 

Krishna Nanda Singh, a local at Rautahat and a flood victim, mentions that the stench in the flooded areas is unbearable and another victim, Shanti Jha, says that they live in constant fear of snakes and scorpions adding that there is also the issue of occasional theft at the temporary shelters. 

Even though 15 helicopters have reached Rautahat with necessary supplies, there is still a dearth of food and medicines in the area. The victims claim that relief materials have only been distributed at places where the flood hasn’t caused much damage. The situation in similar in almost all flood affected districts and many victims wait for some respite, caught between hopes of receiving aid and being rescued and fear of the flood taking away the little that’s left.

(With field reports by Yogesh Rawal,Kailal,  Jitendra Kumar Jha, Saptari, Madan Thakur, Rautahat, and Amar Khadka, Itahari)

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