At least 20 people were feared dead after an overloaded rescue boat capsized in flood-hit eastern India, where hundreds of thousands of people are marooned, officials said today. The boat with a capacity of 20 people was carrying about 50 people in a rescue operation in eastern Bihar state's Madhepura district when it overturned. "About 30 people were rescued. But the current was so strong that there is little possibility of survival of the rest," said disaster management official Prataya Amrit. Nearly 60 people have died and three million affected in the country's worst floods in decades after the River Kosi changed its course, swamping hundreds of villages.
About 200,000 people have been rescued so far. This week, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, described the floods as a "national calamity" and announced a relief package of 228 million dollars and 125,000 tonnes of grain for those affected. The Kosi river breached its banks earlier this month on the border with Nepal, flowing through a channel it had previously abandoned. The river, which flows into the Ganges, is known as the "River of Sorrow" due to its record of disastrous floods during the monsoon season.
More than 800 people have been killed in monsoon-related accidents following the heavy June-to-September rains across India. Bihar officials said the death toll could climb further as many areas were inaccessible. *AFP