Flood duty keeps Assam’s rescue workers away from affected kin

Call of duty: Dr. Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian at CWRC, last went home in January.

Call of duty: Dr. Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian at CWRC, last went home in January.   | Photo Credit: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee

Assam’s rescue workers hope for good news from home

On July 23, Panjit Basumatary received a message as he waited at Kaziranga National Park’s Bagori Range for the arrival of a rescued rhino calf by boat through the flooded wildlife preserve.

The message was from his home at village Taktara, about 500 km west in Kokrajhar district bordering Bhutan and West Bengal. “We are back in the relief camp,” the message from one of his elder siblings said.

Mr. Basumatary is the veterinarian in charge of the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), about 25 km. east of the Bagori Range office.

“The last time I visited home was in January. I wish I could be with my 16-member family, including my parents, who have had to endure two waves of the flood. But tending to the animals is important, too,” he said.

Mr. Basumatary and his team have so far rescued and treated 69 animals, mostly hog deer, injured or under stress while fleeing the flooded national park. The calf his team waited for is among three rhinos under treatment at the CWRC.

The veterinarian’s family members had in the first week of July moved out of their submerged home to the village lower primary school about 200 metres away. The school, on higher ground, was the designated relief camp for most of the villagers.

In relief camps

About a week ago they returned home after the water subsided. “They were hardly through with cleaning the house when another wave of flood struck the district, reportedly due to excess water released from the Kurichu Dam in Bhutan. They are back in the relief camp again,” Mr. Basumatary said.

Pradip Barua, a forest guard posted in Bagori Range, has a similar story. But unlike the veterinarian’s, his flooded house at Kuthari is about 2 km from his place of posting.

“We were instructed, and rightly so, not to take leave when Kaziranga began flooding a fortnight ago. We have been constantly patrolling on boat and following the animals to the hills to ensure their safety. None of us have had the time to visit home, ” he said.

Mr. Barua’s brothers helped his wife and son construct a temporary shed beside the highway to spend a few days. “They are back home now, but the sheds remain, just in case the park and its vicinity are flooded again,” he said.

In Dhubri district’s Bagribari, about 230 km west of Guwahati, Dr. Jakir Hussain has been held hostage by floodwaters within the complex of the small town’s 30-bed model hospital. “The ground floor of our two-storey hospital is flooded, forcing us to move most equipment upstairs. We discharged all the patients. And kept medicines and anti-venom serum requiring refrigeration in some houses that have escaped the floods and have electricity,” the doctor told The Hindu.

Dr. Hussain’s official quarters within the hospital complex is flooded. too. His family of three and the six-member family of a nurse have been sharing a shed constructed on the roof of the quarters, envisaging such a situation.

With the Health Department having cancelled leave of all employees, the Bagribari Model Hospital staff have been wading through waist-deep water to attend to medical emergencies in the flood-affected area.

The floods in Assam claimed the 76th life on Thursday as 34.93 lakh people continue to be affected across 18 of Assam’s 33 districts. Japanese Encephalitis, on the other hand, has claimed 119 lives since January this year.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 3:12:01 PM |

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