On 18th August 2008, the embankment of river Koshi near the Indo-Nepal border was collapsed. Within minutes, the river had changed course and submerged many areas which had not been flooded in many decades. As the deluge devoured whole villages, only tree-tops were visible above the waterline in worst-hit areas like Saharsa. It was the most disastrous floods in the history of Bihar, a disaster which affected over 2.3 million people in the northern part of the state. According to the World Health Organization, 1,850 villages, inhabited by 3.3 million people, had been flooded and at least one million people were left homeless by the catastrophe.
Hundreds of thousands were left without food and water and Bihar’s Ministry of Agriculture had assessed the crop damage to be at 150 Crores. Even though the initial death toll was around 75, medical experts feared a deadly outbreak of epidemics as there were numerous reports of Typhoid, Malaria and Cholera from the area. On August 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had declared Bihar Floods a ‘National Disaster’.
Quick response makes a significant difference
On learning about the situation in Bihar, Amma quickly instructed to send a number of teams comprising of Brahmacharis, Brahmacharinis, doctors and nurses to the region, along with medicines and ambulances. Inspired Amma’s ever-ready attitude towards helping anyone in need, medical students, staff and doctors at the AIMS Hospital, Kochi came forward and donated 500 sets of brand-new clothing and medical kits including 20,000 painkiller tablets, 10,000 units of blood-pressure medicine,150 liters of cough syrup and medicines for skin infections and scabies.
In addition to the supplies and medicines, the MAM had also sent an ambulance and EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] team to Bihar, along with the state-of-the art Mobile Tele-Medicine Unit of AIMS, Kochi. The ambulance, built for handling emergency situations, was fully-equipped with facilities like defibrillator, monitors, ventilators, syringe pump, infusion pump and pulse-oximeter.
Radiology and lab technicians were also accompanied the Mobile Tele-Medicine Unit, which was equipped with an ECG [electro-cardio-gram], Specialty cardiac services, X-ray machine and pathology and bio-chemistry labs. Satellite connectivity, provided by ISRO, allowed the unit to communicate (send ultra-sound echo Doppler images) with AIMS, Kochi and consult specialty doctors there. This vehicle was first used in MAM’s tsunami-relief work in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The effort of the medical team was so comprehensive that Dr. Raghavendra, a Brahmachari serving at AIMS observed that with such facilities as ECG, patient monitor, ventilator, syringe pump, infusion pumps, pulse oximeter, the MAM team was all set to establish a general hospital with ICU in Bihar.