New in Northeast | An annual tragedy that is seeing unrelenting devastation

  • While floods and rainfall (which bring with them, death and destruction) are common to the Northeast region, this time, the scale has been much higher. Here are the numbers: 
Thirty-three of Assam’s 35 districts is currently reeling under floods, which includes 5,137 villages in 127 revenue circles. PREMIUM
Thirty-three of Assam’s 35 districts is currently reeling under floods, which includes 5,137 villages in 127 revenue circles.
Published on Jun 20, 2022 04:14 PM IST
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Floods and heavy rainfall, and in turn, deaths and devastation that visit the region each year are common to Assam and most other states in the Northeast. But this year is different. The devastation is unrelenting.

As per details prepared by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), till Sunday, 71 deaths had been reported in Assam due to floods and landslides since April, when heavy rainfall began lashing the state. On Sunday, nine persons, including three children, were killed and eight others were reported missing.

Thirty-three of the state’s 35 districts is currently reeling under floods, which includes 5,137 villages in 127 revenue circles. Several urban areas in eight districts, including Guwahati, the state’s largest city, are also being affected by flood waters.

Seven of the major rivers in the state including the Brahmaputra are flowing above the danger level at several places. Flood waters have affected over 4.2 million residents in the affected districts. With more than 1.2 million affected people, Barpeta is the worst affected district, followed by Darrang, with over 393,000.

A total of 1,147 relief camps — which include 403 relief distribution centres —have been opened by the state administration and 186,424 persons who have fled their shelters to escape flood waters are residing in these camps. Nearly 40,000 people are staying in camps in Hojai — the highest among all districts.

Flood waters have taken a toll on domestic animals and properties as well. On Sunday, 812 animals and poultry were reported to have been washed away and 181 houses, including animal shelters, were fully or partially damaged.

Standing crops in 107,370 hectares of land have also been submerged as of Sunday. Floods and landslides caused by heavy rains have damaged several roads, embankments, and bridges across the state.

The scale of the devastation has put pressure on rescue and relief teams as well. On Sunday, 266 boats deployed by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and aided by state police and fire and emergency service personnel, rescued 8,760 persons and over 27,000 animals. In an unfortunate incident, a police officer and a constable drowned in flood waters in Nagaon on Sunday.

The flood waters have reached national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state too, and till Monday morning, 18% of the total area of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) was submerged. Fifty-five of the total 223 anti-poaching camps inside the park are inundated and seven hog deer and a leopard have died due to drowning and vehicle collision while crossing the national highway close to the park in search of higher grounds.

Assam is not the only state affected by floods and landslides in the region. Its neighbouring Meghalaya has also suffered deaths and destruction since May. According to the latest data compiled by the state disaster management authority till Sunday, a total of 40 lives have been lost till date from April 1, 2022, while a total of 633,924 people from 918 villages have been affected.

A total of 4,370 houses have been either fully or partially damaged so far, while 361 were partially damaged till Sunday. At present, 36 relief camps accommodating 4,262 people are presently operational.

Over 35 hectares of land have either been inundated or become useless under the force of flash floods. Large-scale damage to important roads has been reported state-wide, and there are reports of massive infrastructure damage as well including schools, markets and offices.

Arunachal Pradesh is the third state in the region which is also witnessing heavy rainfall and landslides since last month. Till Sunday, 9 people had died in the state since April — most of the deaths were due to landslides. A total of 524 houses in 87 villages have been damaged and around 11,000 people affected by rainfall and landslides.

As per data issued by India Meteorological Department (IMD) on June 16, Meghalaya had recorded 172% more rainfall than normal in the past week. Assam witnessed 100% more rainfall and Arunachal Pradesh recorded 28% surplus precipitation than normal. The figure for these three states for the period from June 1 to June 15 was 14% more rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh, 47% more in Assam and 133% surplus in Meghalaya.

This is the second spate of flooding and landslide-related deaths and damages the three states have witnessed since May this year. With three-four months of monsoon remaining, there’s the worry that the coming weeks could bring more bad news for the region. These states witness floods each year, but people say the scale and nature of destruction are much larger this season than the earlier one.

Incidentally, the four other states in the region didn’t record surplus precipitation in the past fortnight. Rainfall in Nagaland was normal in the first fortnight of June while it was 53% less in Manipur, 45% less in Mizoram and 39% less than normal in Tripura.

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    Utpal is an assistant editor based in Guwahati. He covers all eight states of North-East and was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times .

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