Half of Assam's Majuli island in spate
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Half of Assam's Majuli island in spate

The surging Brahmaputra river breaches a vital embankment along South Asia's largest river island displacing thousands.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2007 11:47 IST

Thousands of people have been displaced overnight in Assam with the surging Brahmaputra river breaching a vital embankment on Wednesday along Majuli, South Asia's largest river island. The flood situation in the state remains critical.

A water resources department official said at least half of the 421 sq km island in Jorhat district, 320 km east of the state's largest city Guwahati, was submerged after a breach in a mud embankment late Tuesday.

"Close to 30,000 people have been displaced after floodwaters entered 20 villages in Majuli with the villagers now sheltered in some highlands," Jorhat district magistrate L Congsan told IANS.

Majuli, with a population of about 150,000 people, once covered a calm and prosperous 1,500 sq km that was dotted with Hindu monasteries.

But in 1950, a severe earthquake shifted the Brahmaputra riverbed and caused massive silting that in turn led to heavy erosion, especially during the monsoon. So intense was the erosion that Majuli was reduced to a quarter of its size and became prone to extensive flooding.

"We have lost everything with the angry Brahmaputra river sweeping away all our hard work in one single push," said 45-year-old Tularam Pegu.

Pegu and his family of four are now sheltered on an embankment three km from their village.

Late on Tuesday, soldiers evacuated about 5,000 people stranded in their homes in Majuli.

"The overall flood situation is still critical with an estimated 10.3 million people displaced since July. In the current third wave of flooding that began last week, more than four million people have been hit," Bhumidhar Barman, Assam's revenue, relief and rehabilitation minister, told IANS.

The floods that began in July have affected about 10,000 villages - the worst hit districts being Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dhubri, Morigaon, Barpeta, Jorhat and Nalbari.

"About 20 out of 27 districts have been affected by the floods with 55 people killed since July in separate incidents," the minister said.

A Central Water Commission bulletin Wednesday said the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries were flowing above the danger level in at least 18 places and in full spate with heavy monsoon rains lashing the region.

"There are about 700 makeshift camps now where thousands of people are sheltered, while many more are staying in raised embankments and other such platforms under tarpaulin tents," the minister said.

First Published: Sep 12, 2007 10:34 IST