The death toll in the Indian cholera epidemic was today (June 5) reported to be over 8,000 -- and still rising.
The death toll in the Indian cholera epidemic was today (June 5) reported to be over 8,000 -- and still rising. The epidemic has swept across the border from East Pakistan into West Bengal, and has already reached Calcutta. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has intervened personally and flown to Calcutta. Indian army troops have attempted to seal the border with Pakistan in an effort to stem the daily flood of tents of thousands of refugees, many carrying the disease. But with more than four million refugees already crowding into India, many into the densely over-populated West Bengal capital of Calcutta, the situation is reported to be out of hand. A serious shortage of food and medical supplies has added to the dangerous refugee situation, despite urgent efforts by international relief organisations.. This film, showing refugees on the road into Calcutta, and crowding into the city, illustrates the serious problem faced by the Indian Government -- and the danger threatening the teeming millions of Calcutta.
SYNOPSIS: A raging cholera epidemic is sweeping East pakistan and the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, and over 8,000 people were reported dead by Saturday -- with the toll still rising. With more than four million refugees like these already crowded into India, and with ten of thousands coming daily, the situate on was reported to be at a dangerous level. These refugees have reached Calcutta -- and so has the killer disease, in the poorest and most over-populated city in the world. Mrs. Indira Gandhi flew to the West Bengal capital to intervene personally, and Indian army troops attempted to seal the border with East Pakistan in an effort to halt the flow of refugees, many carrying the disease and dying on the road into the city. But reports said the crisis was already out of control.
International rescue organisations are urgently trying to cope with a drastic shortage of food, medical supplies and shelter. But despite the attempts by of are countries to get the much-needed supplies into India, Mrs. Gandhi has accused them of being too slow. With the crisis rising at its present level, news reports indicate that Mrs. Gandhi is correct.
Any available shelter is being used by the Pakistani refugees in an attempt to get away from the merciless heat. This illustration is macabrely symbolic --- for it is Calcutta's over-loaded and inadequate drainage system which is liable to become blocked - and intensify ten-fold the spread of cholera. Local authorities in Calcutta and at many towns and villages on the road from East Pakistan are trying to cope with the cholera death-tell situation by burning and mass burial of bodies. There are fears, too, of political trouble started by dissidents in the many refugee camps. Top-level talks meanwhile, are being held to see if the refugees can be dispersed into other states.
This particular camp of about 5,000 refugees -- that's five times more than it is meant to cope with - is as hard-hit as the rest. Even the distribution of tents is a problem -- if they are unpacked, there's a danger that fighting will break out in an effort to get them. So the remain unpacked, and the situation remains critical.