25 killed, 200,000 displaced in northeast floods

June 16th, 2008 - 11:07 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 16 (IANS) The army was called Monday to rescue marooned villagers as flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains in the northeast displaced 200,000 people and left 25 dead, officials said. Six people drowned overnight in three separate incidents in Assam’s Lakhimpur district while trying to escape gushing floodwaters in bamboo rafts, Assam Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Bhumidhar Barman said.

“We have reports of six deaths so far and about 200,000 people being displaced from their homes in the two districts of Lakhimpur and Sonitpur with the flood situation turning critical,” Barman told IANS.

On Saturday, a series of mudslides in adjoining Arunachal Pradesh left 14 people dead and about 30 injured. The incidents took place in and around state capital Itanagar. The death toll in the landslides, however, mounted to 19.

“Three injured victims died in hospital Sunday, while two bodies trapped under the debris of collapsed houses were extricated Monday,” Bidul Payeng, district magistrate of Pamumpare of which Itanagar is a part, told IANS over the phone.

“Rescue work is still on and you never know there could be more bodies trapped under the debris with at least 30 houses caving in.”

The army and paramilitary forces were called to rescue marooned villagers in Assam’s Sonitpur and Lakhimpur districts Monday.

“The army and paramilitary forces are currently working in some 300 villages and have already brought to safer places hundreds of people trapped in their homes,” the minister said.

Authorities have opened at least 50 makeshift camps to shelter displaced villagers in the two districts. “We have been providing food, water, and medicines to the affected people,” Barman said.

There have been at least 15 breaches in embankments in the two districts leading to the flash floods. A Central Water Commission bulletin Monday said the main Brahmaputra river and its tributaries were flowing above the danger level in at least six places with the trend likely to increase.

The regional meteorological centre warned of more rains and thundershowers. The 2,906 km long Brahmaputra is one of Asia’s largest rivers that traverse 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 into the Bay of Bengal.

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

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

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