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Flood situation grim, Army on standby

india Updated: Jun 20, 2007 14:41 IST

Army and paramilitary troops have been put on standby in Assam as flash floods triggered by monsoon rains have displaced thousands of people, officials said on Wednesday.

"The overall flood situation is grim with all the rivers and their tributaries in full spate. We have asked the army and other security and civil agencies to be on standby to rescue marooned villagers as and when required," said Bhumidhar Barman, revenue, relief and rehabilitation minister.

More than 20,000 people were displaced overnight in parts of eastern and southern Assam.

"About 170,000 people from 200 villages have been hit by the floods so far in five districts with a total land area of 7,000 hectares affected in the first wave of floods that began last week," Barman told IANS.

According to a Central Water Commission bulletin, the Brahmaputra river is flowing above the danger level in at least 12 places in Assam.

"In several places, the Brahmaputra has been flowing at least a metre above the danger level and is still maintaining a rising trend," a government flood bulletin said.

The Regional Meteorological Centre in Guwahati on Wednesday warned of more rains and thundershowers in the next 24 hours.

Flood-hit people in the districts of North Lakhmipur, Dhemaji, Cachar, Karimgang and Hailakandi, were forced out of their homes and are now sheltered in makeshift tarpaulin tents, raised platforms and embankments.

"We are providing relief materials like rice and other essentials, besides medicines and healthcare facilities," said Barman.

Thousands of villagers have lost their homes and croplands in the floods.

"A total land area of about 4,285 hectares has been submerged, including nearly 1,000 hectares of farmland," said a statement issued by the Assam government.

Road transport has also been hit in some parts of the state because highways are flooded.

Assam Water Resources Minister Bharat Narah said: "We are taking all preventive measures and strengthening dykes and embankments to prevent them from getting breached,"

The 2,906 km long Brahmaputra is one of Asia's largest rivers that traverses its first stretch of 1,625 km in China's Tibet region, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km through neighbouring Bangladesh before converging with the Bay of Bengal.

Every year, floods leave a trail of destruction, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields and drowning livestock, besides causing loss of human life and property, in this state with a population of 26 million.

The monsoon was scattered in Assam last year thereby sparing millions of people from the ravaging floods. However, in 2004, at least 200 people had died and more than 12 million were displaced due to the floods.