Looking for their books, Afsana (8) and Rubina (6) rummage through the debris at the site of their brick-and-thatch house. While their parents have not started picking up the pieces of their life, the two sisters, who study in a government school, are drying their books on a cot. They want to get back to school soon.
While this family is concerned about the education of the two girls, the elders of Mirganj along NH-57A — which connects Forbesganj and Jogbani — are more worried about rebuilding their homes. Over 500 houses of brick, mud and thatch collapsed in a flash flood on the night of August 11. A canal breached its embankment and gushed towards Mirganj, a habitation of 2,000 people, mostly daily wagers, masons and mechanics who work in Biratnagar (Nepal), 12 km away.
The flood has receded, leaving behind heaps of debris, but neither the panchayat mukhiya nor the local MLA has visited yet.
A Mirganj resident, Mohammed Ibrahim (65), says, “The water caught us unawares. We ran towards the highway. When some people tried to return, they were told that their houses were filled with water four to six-foot deep.”
Pointing to his collapsed house, which had seven rooms for his five brothers, he says, “It was made with our hard-earned money. I had progressed from a rickshaw puller to an autorickshaw owner. I do not know how to build the house again. We are told there is a provision for government compensation.”
Mohammed Nizam says he took Rs 40,000 from a money-lender to build his two-room house, which has collapsed. As village elders tell him the thatch can be reused for the roof, Nizam manages a smile.
A Class III student, Mohammed Hafiz, says: “Nitish Kumar ko yahan aana chahiye.” The crowd pats the boy as Khusbu Khatoon, an elderly woman, adds: “At least our (RJD) MP, Mohammed Taslimuddin Saheb, should come here.”
NH-57A has become a refuge for residents of Mirganj. Maimu Khatoon, who has raised a small tent, says: “Some private groups are bringing food. I got one packet with four pieces of bread and vegetables for a family of six.”
She arranges sticks to light a temporary oven made of brick and puts rice in the pot. “Aaj chawal ka bhuja khayenge (today we will eat roasted rice),” she says.
Forbesganj BJP MLA Vidya Sagar Keshri told The Indian Express: “I could not visit Mirganj because I was travelling in other flood-hit areas and coordinating with mukhiyas. I will surely go there even though there is a death in my home.”
Meanwhile, the route to the Northeast has been restored after the approach road to the Mahananda was rebuilt. With the river water receding, light vehicles are being allowed from both sides.