Assam floods toll 18 dead, 2,500 train passengers still stranded (Lead)

June 28th, 2012 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati/Agartala, June 28 (IANS) Heavy rainfall in Assam has killed at least 18 people till Thursday, even as over 2,500 passengers in four trains continued to be stranded for the third day as heavy landslides blocked tracks and cut off parts of southern Assam.

Announcing the floods damage, Assam Agriculture Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka said a total of 850,000 people and about 70,000 hectares of cropland have been affected so far by floods in the state.

“The district administrations have opened 154 relief camps for the flood-affected people and about two lakh people are taking shelter at relief camps,” said the state agriculture minister.

“Of 21 districts, nine districts have been identified as badly affected by the floods - Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Horhat, Sivsagar, Kamrup, Nagaon and Barpeta.”

Four trains have been stuck at three places on a single metre-gauge rail line in Assam’s Dima Hasao district since Tuesday.

According to railway and state government officials, train services and road links between Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram, parts of Meghalaya as also southern Assam and the rest of India have remained cut off since Tuesday.

The landslides at about 90 places, following incessant rains, have damaged roads, railway tracks and bridges in Dima Hasao, about 300 km from Assam’s main city Guwahati.

“Army soldiers, railway and state government officials and workers, GREF (General Reserve Engineering Force) personnel and local people have been working round-the-clock to restore roads and railway communications,” a spokesperson of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) told IANS.

“The Assam government and NFR authorities have been trying to make an alternative road on an emergency basis in Dima Hasao district to rescue the stranded railway passengers,” Tripura transport department secretary Kishore Ambuly told reporters in Agartala.

District authorities have been providing all help, including food, water and medical teams, to the stranded passengers at the several locations, officials said.

The metre-gauge railway line from Guwahati passes through Dima Hasao district, connecting Tripura’s capital Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.

With the suspension of train services, supply of essential commodities and food grain has been severely hit in the region, sending prices soaring.

The situation has been aggravated following huge mudslides in many places on the highways connecting Assam to Agartala and other national highways.

“The Tripura food and civil supplies department has in separate letters requested the FCI (Food Corporation of India) and the union ministry of food and civil supplies to ensure immediate stocks of essentials, specially rice,” an official of the Tripura government told IANS.

The National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) has deployed 16 teams in the Assam rescue operations supported by seven teams from the State Disaster Rescue Force (SDRF).

In June-July 2010, railway traffic was disrupted for 34 days after a 300-metre track between Harangajao and Mailongdisa, 78 km from southern Assam’s main city Silchar, was washed away due to a heavy landslides.

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