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Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 12:59 UK

'Surrounded by water and grief'

Flood-affected in Supaul
Many villages in Supaul have disappeared under water

Rajan Khosla, a 33-year-old programme officer with the Christian Aid charity in Delhi, travelled to Supaul, one of the worst affected districts in Bihar state where severe flooding has displaced half a million people. He told the BBC News website that at every step he encountered grief.


Monday, September 1

I keep thinking of Jay Prakash. I met him at the railway station in Patna where he had just arrived from Supaul.

map

He has been crying inconsolably since yesterday, refusing to eat or sleep.

He is a father who had tried to save his sons but couldn't. I felt numb when he pulled my shirt and cried.

"They were in my hands, I struggled a lot to hold them tight but they were snatched away by the gushing water. I remember the face of my younger son with tears, moving away from me. I have lost everything - my wife, children. I could not save them, they were in my hands," he cries.

I also met some taxi drivers who had put up a help desk to provide free food to these unfortunate families.

They have already given food to more than 5,000 people and have taken 15 people to hospital.

The taxi drivers' union also provides free taxi drop anywhere in Patna to these families.

A group of university students are collecting donations to help the victims.

I witnessed a rickshaw-puller donating 10 rupees as his contribution towards the relief.

Such is the response of the people to help those who need it the most. Inspiring moments amid such grief.


Tuesday, September 2

The roads are full of families - lost, not knowing where they are going, having lost all their precious belongings.

I ask Mohamed Maqbool where he is going.

"I don't know. We just want to go far away. Away from here," he says.

A flood-displaced woman in Madhepura district
'I face grief at every step'

Ambroi Begum, a mother of two young children, remarks: "We are poor but never thought life would treat us so miserably."

Eight-year-old Razia adds in her soft voice: "Whenever I take water to drink, I recall what the water has done to us."


Wednesday, September 3

We continue our journey to Supaul, one of the worst-affected districts. It takes us nearly 14 hours to cover 325km (200 miles).

Many of the roads are simply not there.

I meet some survivors in a relief camp and listen to endless stories of how they struggled to save themselves.

"Why do the poor like us always suffer? What harm have we done to anyone? We worship Mata Kosi [Mother Kosi, the river] and still we are devastated by her," says Noosar Begum with tears in her eyes.

She has no clue where her other family members are. I struggle to console Noosar. What should I tell her - she who has lost everything?

We reach Supaul late, at around 10pm, and after searching for a long time, we finally manage to get a place to stay.


Thursday, September 4

We leave early for the interior areas of Tribeniganj where thousands of people are staying; many of them after being rescued by the army.

I begin to get a sense of the magnitude of this disaster.

Thousands and thousands of people have been marooned.

Those who managed to save themselves have lost their loved ones, their belongings and the very hope to live with dignity again.

Many of the villages have just disappeared.

As one soldier puts it: "We rescue people after being alerted that they are in 'x' or 'y' place. No one knows where the village is any more."

I meet our local partner organisations which are running relief camps providing food, medicines and water.

They responded immediately to this crisis; they have lots of experience of dealing with such emergencies.

I seek out a group of Dalit families. Christian Aid works closely with this low-caste community and I know that even in times like these, they will face discrimination.

Sanichari Devi says: "We harijans [Dalits] are always left out. The locals who come here to give food know whom to give food. When food packets are dropped they shout at us and do not allow us to get any."


Friday, September 5

We are back in Supaul town and I have time to reflect. Two things have surrounded me - water and grief.

On the way back I saw the bloated body of a child in the water by the road, wedged in a shrub.

I was in turmoil thinking how this child must have struggled? Who is he? Where is his family?

I remember Jay Prakash who could not save his two children. Is this his child?

I had so many questions, but no answers. In every religion water is sacred. How can the holy water be so cruel?


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