Flood situation turns grim in Assam

In safe hands:A woman reaches out to a child in flood-affected Kuchiam village in Morigaondistrict of Assam on Tuesday.— Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar  

Floods continued to wreak havoc in Assam on Tuesday, as the Brahmaputra and its tributaries sent more areas under water, and 50,000 people were still marooned in the worst-hit Tinsukia district.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) air-dropped food packets in Tinsukia, while the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) air-lifted 300 more rescuers from Kolkata to intensify rescue operations in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur districts, besides Tinsukia. Army teams also joined the rescue operations. The State Disaster Management has said 17 districts have been affected in the past 24 hours. The death toll has gone up to 13, with five deaths (two in Dibrugarh, two in Barpeta and one in Tinsukia) reported on Tuesday.

Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Hindu that NDRF teams were expected to reach the marooned people of Amarpur in Sadiya by Wednesday afternoon. The IAF was initially called in for evacuation; but the water level receded, and with it, the threat to the marooned people, so it was requested to drop food packets for 40,000 people marooned at Amarpur.

About 100 marooned people were forced to pass the whole Monday night in the middle of the Ananta Nala river on two boats, in which they were rescued from Laika in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. The boats got stuck in a shallow area when they were pushed by strong currents. “ …one boat got stuck in the middle of the river; when the second boat tried to go near it for rescue, it also got stuck. As the current was strong, with heavy logs floating around, the boats faced the threat of capsize. So, no attempt was made to free them during the night,” he said. They reached a safer place on Tuesday morning.

In Amarpur, an old woman was swept away in the floodwater.

About 90,000 people of 90 villages have been affected in the district, and 24 relief camps have been opened to take in 13,900 people.

In Dhemaji district, the administration called in the IAF for evacuation of the people marooned after an embankment of the Brahmaputra breached on Monday. “However, the evacuation had to be aborted because of the obstruction caused by trees; instead, rescue boats were rushed to evacuate the people. About 2,000 people were rescued during the day,” Deputy Commissioner M.S. Manivannan said.

He said 242 villages had been affected and 7,000 people accommodated in 12 relief camps.

In a release, the NDRF said its teams, comprising 10 officers and 310 rescuers including 26 deep divers, were pressed into service in different parts of the four districts and had so far evacuated 800 families.

The situation in the Majuli river island in Jorhat district was also grim, with the floodwater threatening to breach the Kamalabari-Bongaon PWD road and inundate many villages of the island. In Sivasagar district, thousands of people were affected and rendered homeless after a breach in an embankment at Dkhowmukh.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who is now touring the United States, has directed all Ministers to go down to their districts to monitor the rescue and relief operations. He has been monitoring the situation from his camp abroad, the Chief Minister’s Office said.