‘Everything washed away, it’s god’s curse’, cries Majuli resident

September 6th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Majuli (Assam), Sep 6 (IANS) The elderly Bhubon Pegu stares blankly from a raised mud embankment at the swirling grey floodwaters of the Brahmaputra river cutting a swathe across his village and washing away a cluster of huts.Pegu and his family of 12, including three grandchildren, are among an estimated 100,000 people in Majuli, South Asia’s biggest river island, about 320 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, whose lives will never be the same.

“God’s curse has fallen on us with a big push by the floodwaters washing away everything without a trace,” Pegu told IANS as tears welled up in his sunken eyes.

Flash floods in the Brahmaputra triggered by heavy monsoon rains have displaced two million people in Assam and left 20 dead.

“A total of 20 of the state’s 27 districts are hit by the floods with the situation continuing to be critical,” Bhumidhar Barman, Assam’s revenue and rehabilitation minister, told IANS.

Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Kamrup and Morigaon are some of the worst affected districts. Majuli island is in Jorhat district.

Pegu, a petty farmer, never dreamt in his life that they would be left landless in a matter of hours. “We were born amidst the river and it is the same river that made us paupers overnight. Now you cannot even make out if a village existed in the area,” Pegu said, flanked by his shell-shocked family.

His wife Sonmai was in tears, but tried to console her husband: “Maybe we can go back to our village once the floodwaters recede.” But her consolation failed to soothe Pegu as he knew that was next to impossible.

Pratim Das, another farmer in the river island, said: “During floods in the past, we stayed in makeshift shelters for about two weeks or so and then moved back to our homes. But now the situation is different with our village turning into a river.”

Most of the islanders are now staying in makeshift shelters on mud embankments and other raised platforms with the authorities providing them food, medicines and drinking water.

“We are providing relief and medicines. The government is committed to mitigating their woes,” minister Burman said.

Every year the floods leave a trail of destruction in Assam, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields, drowning livestock, besides causing loss of human life and property, in the remote state 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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