Agriculture is the main occupation and income source in Bihar. Since the floods washed away many of the crops, the near-term future is bleak for the residents of Bihar.
When a dam broke in the Saptakoshi River in Nepal last week, it led to massive flooding in neighboring Bihar, India, where more than two million people have been flooded out of their homes.
And Gospel for Asia missionaries in the impoverished state find themselves among the victims, even as they struggle to help their countrymen.
“An area the size of Delaware has been inundated,” said GFA President K.P. Yohannan, “and we have at least 200 churches and a large number of missionaries in the region that is completely under water. We are still waiting to receive reports about how badly this disaster has affected our work, but I have no doubt that the results will be serious.”
Dr. Yohannan said that despite the difficulties, GFA Compassion Services teams will be dispatched as soon as possible to bring emergency aid to the victims.
GFA missionaries Premal Lokprakash and Hetal Masih report that the water rose four feet in some places as floods engulfed the Supaul, Araria and Madhepura districts of Bihar. Missionaries Mitali Raut and Binod Digal report that many in their area are stranded on the roofs of their homes, and that the water level continues to rise as the heavy rains pour down.The rising water began washing through homes August 20, forcing some families to take shelter on their rooftops.
The flooding began when a dam on the Saptakoshi River in Nepal gave way. The strength of the rushing water caused the river to carve out a new channel 75 miles east of its usual riverbed where it runs through Bihar. In India, it is called the Kosi River.
Because the river’s course changed, the torrent hit villages not usually in the path of the floods and has destroyed many of the roads normally used to bring aid in such situations.
India government officials are saying it is the worst flooding in 80 years in this landlocked state in Northeast India.
The rising water began washing through homes August 20, forcing some families to take shelter on their rooftops. Others left their villages in search of higher ground. So far, more than 725 villages in Bihar have been affected by flooding and more than 50 people have died. The BBC reports that as many as 400 people have died in Nepal and 50,000 are left homeless.The Kosi River is nicknamed “The Sorrow of Bihar” because of its tendency to easily change course, wreaking havoc on anything in its destructive path.
“Flood is an understatement,” Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, told CNN. “It’s a disaster.”
In addition to the loss of human life, livestock and property, the people of Bihar are faced with the loss of thousands of acres of crops. Even after the water recedes, Kumar estimates that people will be living in relief camps for seven to eight months before they can return to their villages.
“It is in this situation that I ask Christians to pray for the people of Bihar, and for the believers there.” Dr. Yohannan said. “We don’t know how many churches we have lost or how many Christians have been flooded from their homes, but we do know that our commitment is to help everyone we can, regardless of the situation.
The Kosi River is a volatile neighbor to the millions of Biharis. It causes massive erosion and frequently alters its course, washing away everything in its path.
“Over and over, we have seen God at work in the wake of these disasters, and I am confident that He will turn what we see as evil into His good.
“I join my leaders and missionaries in Bihar and Nepal in asking that Christians around the world pray for those suffering in these floods, that the waters will quickly recede and that those who have escaped the disaster will be kept safe.
“Also pray for the GFA Compassion Services teams that will minister in the devastated area as soon as the water levels drop.”
- Bihar is known as “The graveyard of missions.” Click here to find out how it earned this nickname.
- GFA Compassion Services teams will be reaching out to flood victims. Find out how you can help here.