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Flood survivors struggle to burn or bury dead

Breaking Earth News
Photo: I
ndian bus passengers wait on a flooded stand in Ahmedabad, 08 August 2007. In common with other areas of India, the western state of Gujarat is receiving heavy monsoon rains causing flooding and disruption to transportation and essential services. The annual monsoon has caused massive flooding and left a trail of destruction from Nepal through India to Bangladesh, killing around 1,900 people since June. Photo courtesy AFP.

DARBHANGA • Sribhagwan Manjhi has taken to counting the dead bodies that float down the river since raging waters swollen by the monsoon swallowed his bamboo home in India’s Bihar state.

This week, he said he had counted 10 corpses. “Often I miss some,” Manjhi admitted from his observation point in Begusarai district, one of the 19 of impoverished Bihar’s 38 districts submerged by the worst flooding in 30 years.

Manjhi’s macabre hobby points to the serious problem of disposing of dead bodies, which for Hindus normally involves cremation.

Survivors said they were searching for dry timber to cremate the dead from the myriad villages and hamlets completely washed away by the six rivers criss-crossing this eastern region.

Nearby Darbhanga district has a sizeable Muslim population and thus an even bigger problem, as most traditional graveyards are under several feet of water.

“It is a very tricky situation as we can’t just bury our dead anywhere,” said Afzal, one of the many stranded Muslims, who gave only one name.
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