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Koshi River Floods in Sunsari and Saptari

Author/Source : Relief Web
Publish Date :Mon, 25 Aug 2008


Kathmandu, 24 August 2008

This situation report is based on information received from the OCHA Office in Biratnagar, UN Agencies and humanitarian partner organisations

Situation in Sunsari and Saptari Districts, Eastern Nepal

1) Flooding: Two entire VDCs in Sunsari district, (Shree)Haripur and Shripur(javdi), as well as parts of Laukihi (Western part) and Paschhim Kushaha (wards 3, 4, 8 and 9) remain completely flooded by the Koshi River, after it broke out of its eastern embankment on 18 August, and has subsequently changed its course. Other VDCs in the area (Bhokraha, Madhuwan, Narshigha, Bashntapur and Dhuskighat) have experienced some limited flooding and are hosting displaced people. Saptari District has not been flooded as such, but has seen an influx of displaced people from Sunsari district, in particular to Bhadaha and Hanumannagar.

2) The flooding also extends beyond the Indian border and has caused significant damages and human suffering there.

3)The East West highway remains impassable, as it has been broken at three points at least and is covered by the river waters, and may take considerable time to repair. The Koshi and Mechi Zones thus remain disconnected from Nepal's road network. The alternative route through Bathanaha-Birpur-Bahantabari in Bihar, India, has also reportedly become impassable thus lengthening the land route detour considerably. The NTC phone service is restored as of 21 August, but has been intermittent and difficulties should be anticipated for some days. The mero mobile network is working, while the CDMA service is not.

4) Displacement: The Government (MoHA) estimates that at least 70,000 people are affected by the flooding in the area, and 7,000 families are displaced. The Nepal Red Cross Society (MRCS) reports a number of 54,000 affected persons as of 24 August. Most of the displaced are poor farmers or land labourers, many of them Maithili speakers. In addition to the persons displaced from VDCs in Sunsari District, the number of flood displaced persons from India has been reported to be considerable. Figures are yet to be ascertained.

5) The rescue operation using helicopters, and more than 20 boats and also elephants continues, mainly through the DDRC as well as Koshi Victim Society (KVS) in Saptari. People are still being rescued from their inundated houses five days after the floods waters broke into the area. Some may have hesitated to leave their properties or may have been scared of helicopter rides.

6) There is as of yet no official report about human casualties or missing persons. Media reports indicate that 4 to 6 people may have been killed. Reports of 27 bodies found in India could not yet be confirmed.

7) A large section of the displaced persons have been brought to or have otherwise found their way to the approximately 27 shelters which have been established in Sunsari and Saptari districts. Precise numbers are difficult to come by, as the population fluctuates, and as not all shelters/camps are officially designated or registered. As of 24 August there were roughly 14,200 people in shelters in Inaruwa, the District HQ of Sunsari, and other VDCs of Sunsari as well as in shelters in Saptari district.

8) Around 10-15,0oo displaced people from Paschhim Kushaha, Haripur and Shripurjavdi in the western part of Sunsari (i.e. those cut off from Inaruwa due to the interruption of the highway) have been most difficult to rescue and to reach by Sunsari authorities and relief agencies based in Inaruwa. They can only be accessed by air or by road over the Koshi barrage from Saptari.

9) Among those displaced and sheltering on higher ground are also people who fled from the Indian VDCs Birpur, Bhimnagar and Ranigunj. There are no such elevated locations as the Koshi barrage and dams in nearby VDCs across the Indian border. Many are also assumed to have moved on across the Koshi barrage to Saptari district.

10) A full repair of the East West Highway and of the breached eastern embankment of the Koshi River is not likely to be completed until the end of the monsoon season. The Government currently operates with a planning horizon of 4 months for return of the displaced to their properties. Notably, even if the water should return to its pre-flooding course and levels, the damages caused to properties and livelihoods (crops, livestocks, tools, etc.) amount to a significant need in terms of reconstruction and rehabilitation. As the upgrading/repair of the Koshi River barrage and embankment system, built in the 1950s, had been an issue of intense debate for a number of years, the discussion about a lasting solution to the recurring flooding by the Koshi River in the area is likely to run in parallel with the relief and rehabilitation efforts.

11) The Nepali Government has established contact with an Indian team of experts in order to look into repairing the embankment. Work in this respect in expected to start in the coming days.