Natural Disasters

Floods affect more than a million in Assam despite rainfall deficit in state

The situation may worsen in the next 48 hours

By Anupam Chakravartty
Published: Sunday 14 July 2019
Sentinel-1 SAR of Copernicus shows extent of flooding North Lakhimpur district. Photo: Twitter / @ashimmitra

In a span of one week, 1.4 million people in Assam have been affected by the floods due to heavy rainfall across the North East. While three lives were lost in various parts the state, incessant rainfall in the last 72 hours have hit rescue and relief operations. Many areas are cut off due to flooding.

Barpeta is the worst hit, with 0.52 million people affected, followed by Dhemaji (138,000), according to Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). A total of 2,168 villages and 51,752 hectares of agricultural fields have been inundated by torrential rains that started earlier this week, the authority added.

Border villages in Baksa district started facing floods due to heavy rainfall in neighbouring areas in the first week of July that impacted about 1,200 people in 10 villages. "Many tributaries of Brahmaputra originate in the mountainous regions of Bhutan that join the north bank of the river. Due to incessant rains over the last one or two weeks these rivers started flowing higher than the danger mark much before the rainy spell started in Assam," an ASDMA official said.

Incidentally, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD), there remains a rainfall deficit of 14 per cent. On July 6, when Baksa was flooding, the deficit in North East was 38 per cent.

Rainfall was very heavy in Arunachal Pradesh too while only some parts in Assam got rains. After Baksa, floods reached Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. According to various local reports as well as Disaster Management officials, a large quantum of water from Ranganadi Hydroelectric Project in Yazali was released Monday night. This affected 20 revenue villages in Lakhimpur district, initially damaging 334 hectares crop area and displacing 10,164 people.

There was heavy downpor across the North East by July 9.

Many villages in Majuli, the world's largest river island, and Kaziranga National Park, home of the one-horned rhinoceros, continue to remain under water. According to a release from Assam Forest and Wildlife Department, 70 per cent of the park is under water with herds of wild animals searching for higher ground.

While most of those affected by the flood are in the low-lying flood plains and river islands called chaporis, 234 camps have been set up in different parts of the state. They house 20,047 people. Only 54 boats were deployed, which rescued 848 people, according to an ASDMA official.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met deputy commissioners of all districts on July 14 and reportedly asked them to start relief operations immediately. The State Disaster Relief Force and the Army have started operations in several parts. 

Many communities have started mobile kitchens to help the needy. Various organizations across the state have opened relief camps in several parts. 

The flood situation, according to a release by IMD, may worsen. Heavy to very heavy showers have been predicted across Assam and Meghalaya in the next 48 hours.

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