With the COVID-19 pandemic under limelight this year, many other devastating incidents are sadly being pushed under the carpet. The raging floods in Assam, a North-Eastern province of India, is one of the scenarios not receiving much attention.
The flooding of third longest river of the world, Brahmaputra and its tributaries have claimed more than 75 human lives and affected a population of over 300 thousand. This is a lot more than the number of people affected due to COVID-19 in India.
As per the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), 26 of 33 districts across the state are badly affected. Roughly 85% of Kaziranga National Park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and a home to the rare one-horned rhinoceros, is submerged under water, killing as many as 100 animals including nine rhinos. Hundreds of other animals are fleeing the inundated forests and seeking refuge in the nearby villages.
Landslides triggered due to floods have resulted in approximately 25 deaths. Additionally, the fire which broke out at a gas well of Oil India Limited (OIL) in the Tinsukia district of eastern Assam displaced many people from their houses, destroyed tea gardens and polluted Maguri-Motapung Beel, a nearby water body. The fire was so severe that even a month was not enough to extinguish it completely.
However, the state government is doing their best in turning schools and similar places into relief camps and distributing necessities like food, masks and sanitizers to the displaced. Nearly 125 animals have been rescued. “We have 40 teams of the State Disaster Response Force in the worst-hit areas and the army also is on standby,” says M.S. Mannivanan, head of ASDMA, as of July 16, 2020. Almost 50,000 people are seeking refuge in more than 600 relief camps.
PM Modi finally spoke to Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam on July 19 and enquired about the floods and the fire which broke out at OIL. He assured his full support as well. The United Nations has also lent a helping hand, stating that it is ready to support the Indian Government, if need be.
Keeping the current pandemic in mind and adhering to the guidelines of social distancing, more areas have been converted into relief camps. Usually, a space of 3.5sq m is allocated to every individual. Whereas now, due to the current circumstances, every person gets double the area. Strict rules are also being followed to ensure safety and hygiene. Fortunately, there are no reported cases from these camps, as of July 19, 2020.
Along with relief camps, many distribution centres have also been set up across 21 districts of Assam. The authorities have distributed about 7 lakh kilograms of staple food items like rice, dal and salt along with roughly 11,000 litres of mustard oil and other required goods, as of July 13, 2020.
The devastating floods which is a recurring phenomenon in Assam indicates that extreme events are now more likely to occur as our weather patterns continue to deteriorate due to climate change. These incidents are merely showcasing the power nature which is unleashed from time to time as a warning to the humankind.