Politics

Assam Flood Situation Remains Grim; Assembly Suspended for Two Days

The army, and personnel from the national and state disaster response forces have been called in to assist the ongoing relief and rescue operations.

A flood affected family travel on a boat to a safer area. Credit: PTI

A flood affected family travel on a boat to a safer area. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The flood situation in Assam continues to be grim, leading the state assembly to suspend its budget session on Thursday for two days so that legislators are able to visit the affected areas to take stock of the situation and intensify the necessary relief and rescue operations.

According to a statement made by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the assembly on Wednesday, the ongoing floods have so far claimed 12 lives and affected over 16 lakh affected people. The death toll rose to 13 on Thursday.

As per official statistics, more than 1.3 lakh people have been shifted to relief camps spread across the 21 districts of the state. The state administration has called in the army, and personnel from the national and state disaster response forces to assist the ongoing relief and rescue operations.

Sonowal’s constituency, the riverine island Majuli, is one of the worst affected. As per reports in the local media, over 1.2 lakh people residing in more than 150 villages of the island have been affected by the floods. As many as seven satras (the Vaishnava monasteries situated in the island) are reportedly submerged under water.

Surrounded by the Brahmaputra, Majuli faces floods every year. However, this time, the situation worsened as the surging river waters breached an embankment at Jugi Kaibarta Gaon in the Bongaon area of upper Majuli on Tuesday. The fast flowing waters thereafter submerged as many as 12 villages around the area, threatening to inundate nearly half of the island. Though houses have been swept away by the river waters, no lives have been lost.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal taking stock of the flood situation in Majuli on Thursday. Credit: PIB

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal taking stock of the flood situation in Majuli on Thursday. Credit: PIB

Ranoj Pegu, the chief executive member of the Mishing Autonomous Council — the administrative body that covers Mishing-dominated Majuli — told this correspondent from the island, “The embankment near Bongaon broke after many years. Thankfully, two factors saved the situation from getting out of hand. One, the rising level of the river waters began showing signs of receding from Wednesday afternoon and two, the area around Bongaon is comparatively higher than the rest of the island, so the water didn’t flow into the other areas.”

The flood situation in the island took a dangerous turn in 2012 too when the Brahmaputra breached yet another embankment in the Sonowal Kachari area of Kamalabari-Gegera dyke in upper Majuli.

Sonowal, who visited the affected areas of Majuli on Thursday morning, promised “immediate steps to reconstruct the embankment breached by the floodwaters.” He told local TV channels, “I have instructed the deputy commissioner and the sub divisional officer to provide adequate relief to the marooned villagers. My government’s priority is to provide immediate relief to the affected. The central government has assured us all possible help.”

The ferry service to the island from Neematighat, which was suspended on July 23 as the water level went above the danger mark, resumed on Wednesday following an improvement in the situation.

Media reports quoted Jorhat district deputy commissioner Virender Mittal as saying 13 relief camps have been set up by the administration on the island. He said, “The government officials are distributing relief materials to the victims. Any official found neglecting duty during floods will face action under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Assam Disaster Management Manual, 2015.”

The chief minister, accompanied by the state water resources minister Keshab Mahanta and minister of state Naba Doley, also visited other flood affected areas of the Jorhat district on Thursday besides visiting the affected areas in Bokakhat in the neighbouring Golaghat district. The Brahmaputra breached the embankment in Dergaon in Golaghat district, which worsened the flood situation in the areas around it.

The Kaziranga National Park (KNP), half of which falls in the Golaghat district, is also inundated by the flood waters, leading to the death and displacement of the animals, including the park’s prized possession, the one-horned rhinos. On July 25, the park authorities recovered the carcass of a rhino from the Agartoli range. So far, more than 18 deer have been killed by the flood waters.

Speaking to The Wire, the district forest officer of KNP, Subhasis Das, said, “In the last four days, we recovered the carcass of three calves besides that of a rhino and rescued seven calves.”

“Though the water level is beginning to come down since yesterday, the animals are continuing to migrate out of the park areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s Lok Sabha member from the state Ram Prasad Sarmah wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday requesting him to send a central team to take stock of the situation and also “announce a Rs 1000 crore relief package for the state to deal with the flood situation.” He said in the letter, “This year (the flood situation) is the worst in the last 30 years. I urge the Union Government to take immediate steps to send more NDRF teams to Assam and declare Assam flood as a national problem.”