Assam Floods: 36 people killed so far, situation worsens

With the incessant monsoon rains during the past few days, the flood situation in Assam is worsening each passing day with 704 villages in 16 districts being inundated, affecting 2.53 lakh people while the Brahmaputra is flowing above the danger level at many places in nine districts, officials said on Friday. For such a large-scale disaster, the floods have received relatively little coverage in the media. Crises in the North-Eastern region of India are often underreported, and the latest floods in Assam are just another example of that.

Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) officials said that the flood-hit districts are Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Udalguri, Darrang, Baksa, Nalbari, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, and Tinsukia.

“Over 2.53 lakh people affected by the floods and over 11,765 hectares of crop were badly affected due to the floods. Around 19,000 people took shelter in 142 relief camps,” an ASDMA official said.

The rising waters and landslides have claimed 36 lives since mid-May, with one more person dying on Thursday due to drowning in Assam’s Dhemaji district.  In Assam, where 383 people were lodged in three relief camps on Thursday. The death took this year’s flood toll in the state to 15. Earlier this month, 21 people were killed in a landslide in the Barak Valley region of Assam. The Regional Meteorological Centre in Guwahati has predicted heavy rainfall for major parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur on Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Bhutan released water from its Kuricchu dam from 5am on Thursday, ramping up the water level in rivers flowing through the bordering districts of Chirang, Baksa and Barpeta. The Kurichhu Hydropower Plant—a run-of-the-river project—is located on the river by the same name in Bhutan.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has directed the Deputy Commissioners of all the affected districts to address the needs of the flood-hit people urgently while also adhering to Covid-19 safety protocols.

A bridge en route to Baghjan, around 550 km east of Guwahati, was damaged due to the floods and the Chief Minister has asked to build a bailey bridge for unimpeded movement of emergency services.

Besides the displacement of and impact on humans, the floods are also causing damage to property and infrastructure. Massive erosion caused by the rising waters has led to roads and bridges being damaged. Additionally, reports claim that a total of 19,430 hectares of crop area have become waterlogged. To make matters worse, these flooded farm lands had standing crops.

With yesterday’s forecasts from Guwahati’s meteorological department predicting there will be no respite in rainfall for the next five days, the situation in Assam looks like it might get worse before it gets better.

And while the problem occurs every year and there might be no easy solutions, it’s important to act and take into account what experts have been saying for years – do not build more embankments, curb deforestation, and ban construction on low-lying plains.

Meanwhile, state-owned Oil India Ltd (OIL) official said that due to the heavy rainfall during the past few days, Baghjan – where its leaking oil well caught fire – and adjoining areas in Tinsukia district have been badly hit by flood water and the accident site has been inundated, affecting the efforts to douse the blaze.

A massive fire broke out on June 9 at OIL’s Baghjan oil well near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park that had been spewing natural gas and oil condensates uncontrollably since May 27.

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