Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said the unprecedented flooding of Silchar town was a man-made disaster.
He also said relief material could not reach many of some 2.8 lakh marooned people in the southern Assam town, the nerve-centre of Barak Valley.
“Silchar’s flood was man-made. It would not have happened had the embankment at Bethukandi not been breached by some miscreants,” Mr. Sarma told journalists after visiting the flooded town for the second time in less than a week.
He assessed the situation partly in an inflated boat of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and partly by wading through the flooded streets in Silchar, where the water rose up to 12 feet in some areas.
The Chief Minister said the culprits who left a gaping hole in the Barak River embankment at Bethukandi, more than 3 km from the town, would be brought to book. Lapses, if any, on the part of officials would also be probed, he said.
“The Bethukandi incident is a big lesson for us. The next time there is a flood, we have to post policemen at the embankment so that nobody can breach it,” he said.
Mr. Sarma said the Cachar District Disaster Management Authority had issued an advisory but many residents did not take it seriously as the town had never seen such a flood.
Following complaints of irregular or partial distribution of relief, the Chief Minister instructed officials to help as many people as they can. “After going back, I will try to dispatch vegetables to Silchar from Guwahati,” he said.
Clean drinking water has been one of the scarcest commodities in the town with many drinking the floodwater after boiling it on any floor or structure above the water level. Many NGOs have issued appeals and launched fundraisers for procuring at least 1 lakh litres of potable water for the town’s marooned people.
In adjoining Mizoram, the Aizawl-based Central Young Mizo Association and its branches across the State have organised vehicles and packaged drinking water. A leader of the association said 15,000 litres of bottled water have been dispatched from Aizawl to Silchar for distribution to the affected people.
According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, floods and landslides have killed 126 people – five of them on Sunday – in the State since April. A total of 2.17 lakh people remain affected in 680 villages across 28 flooded districts.