Hanna Butler, IFRC
Out of a slumped, damaged building, Mohammed Yunus wades through waist-deep water.
“This is the first time in my life that I have seen a flood like this,” he says. “I wasn’t aware when the flood arrived. It came late at night. We had to quickly leave the house with our eight children.”
“Everything was left in the house and everything was washed away. We lost clothes, food, our water pump and things from the kitchen.
“I am usually a rice and jute farmer, but now my crops are flooded and ruined. I don’t know how we will survive. Who will help us?”
It is a question asked by many of those affected by the severe flooding in India. As water recedes in one of the country’s worst flood-hit areas, the full extent of the destruction and devastation begins to emerge.
The road into Sunali, a village in Bihar is flanked on either side by what looks like a lake. But it isn’t a lake. It is where homes, crops and a school once stood. Now that school is flattened, its playground still under a metre of water. The school van is saturated and full of silt.
Both traditional style thatched houses and sturdier concrete dwellings have been swept from their foundations, testament to the severity of the disaster.
Most of the people living in this area are just like Mohammed, working as small-scale subsistence farmers who grow enough to eat and a little extra as income for basic necessities.
With the main food and livelihoods gone, the Indian Red Cross Katihar branch Chairman, Anil Chamaria, says it will be very lean times ahead for people in Sunali.
“People will survive, but they will need help. This is one of the poorest states of India. People were already vulnerable before the flood,” he adds.
Anil and Red Cross volunteers, along with the government, have been providing initial response and relief to flood hit communities in Bihar since the onset of the disaster, but with 31 million people affected in India, the task is huge.
A few metres down the road past more flood-flattened homes, a young family cooks breakfast on a rare spot of dry ground surrounded by debris.
The makeshift kitchen sits among piles of broken roofing iron, collapsed walls and bits of what was Ansari and Allbjar’s life.
Ansari points to a muddy bit of land. “That is where our house used to be. A house with three rooms,” he says. “We escaped when the flood came and we just took the baby. We are now staying with our relatives. We are hoping for help because we have nothing left. We have no food; we have nothing.”
A crowd begins to gather around the young family, and hears the final question: was this the worst flood you have experienced? Ansari and Allbjar’s answer is clear and echoed by the crowd.
“Yes, it’s the worst flood we have ever had.”