India – Floods and Landslides Affect 1.5 Million in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

Prolonged heavy rainfall is taking its toll in parts of north east India.

A massive landslide in the state of Arunachal Pradesh on 11 July left at least 14 people dead in Papumpare district.

Meanwhile flooding in the neighbouring state of Assam is now so widespread it has affected 23 of the state’s 33 districts. Some villages have been under water since June. Flooding and landslides in the state since June have resulted in over 40 deaths.

Arunachal Pradesh

Heavy rains have been affecting Arunachal Pradesh over the past few days.

At around 15:00 local time on 11 July a massive landslide in the village of Laptap (Papumpare district) buried houses and inhabitants. At least 14 people, believed to be from the same family, have died. Local disaster officials say they are continuing to search for any survivors.

Chief minister Pema Khandu said via Social Media that he is “deeply saddened by news of deaths due to landslide in Laptap village in Papumpare district. More are still buried. My condolence and prayers.”

Elsewhere in the state, relief camps have been set up in Diyun, Namsai, Sagalee, Itanagar, Aalo, Ziro and Seppa to accommodate people evacuated from flood and landslide prone areas.

Prime Minister’s Statement

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, expressed his anguish over the situation arising due to floods in various parts of the Northeast.

“I am anguished by the situation arising due to floods in various parts of the Northeast. I share the pain of all those affected by floods. The entire nation stands with the people of Northeast during this time. Centre assures all possible help to normalise the situation.

“I have spoken to Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu and other officials both in Delhi and the states on the flood situation. I have also asked my colleague Kiren Rijiju to personally supervise the rescue, relief operations and facilitate all possible help needed” the Prime Minister said.

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Assam

The number of people affected by flooding in the state of Assam has increased dramatically over the last few days according to local authorities.

Background – 2017 Flooding

The first wave of flooding began soon after the onset of the monsoon rainfall in early June, affecting 60,000 people in 3 districts: Lakhimpur, Karimganj and Darrang.

By late June flooding had affected just under 100,000 people across 150 villages. Although flood waters had receded in some districts, areas of Karimganj were still under water in flooding that had continued for almost a month.

By 04 July, just under 15,000 people were displaced and staying in 112 relief camps set up in Karimganj district. Across the state as a whole, 6 districts and a total of 270,000 people were affected.

Rain in north east India and river catchments elsewhere has continued since then and the flood situation in Assam has deteriorated further.

Current Situation in Assam

In a report of 11 July, Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said that approximately 1.5 million people in 2,498 villages of 23 districts have been affected. The death toll has increased with some media outlets reporting as many as 44 deaths.

The worst-affected districts include Jorhat, Golaghat, Cachar, Dhemjai, Biswanath, Karimganj, Barpeta, Karbi Anglong, Sinotpur, Darrang, Hojai, Majuli, Lakhimpur, Kokrajhar and Nagaon.

As many as 276 houses have been completely destroyed in the flooding, with a further 1,376 damaged. As of 11 July there were 48,483 people are currently taking shelter in 115 relief camps opened up by the local administrations in 16 districts. A further 93 relief distribution points have also been set up. Over 4,000 of those displaced were in Lakhimpur; 5,500 in Kokrajhar and 5,600 in Golaghat.

Over 140,000 hectares of standing crops have been badly affected due to floods.

Central Team Visit

The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju, led a Central Team to review the flood situation in the North-East, visiting the flood affected people in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh on 13 July, 2017.

Floods in Majuli, Assam 13 July, 2017. Photo: Government of India
Floods in North Lakhimpur, Assam 13 July, 2017. Photo: Government of India

Kaziranga National Park

In a report of 12 July from ACT Alliance, the global aid and relief alliance, said that the flood water has also caused widespread destruction in the world-famous Kaziranga National Park, where more than 560 animals, including 14 rhinos, were killed.

Damaged Roads and Rail Hinder Relief Operations

ACT said that infrastructure had also been badly affected, with road services damaged or interrupted at 2,847 places while railway tracks, damaged by landslides in the Lumding-Badarpur Railway division, were yet to be restored.

ACT are concerned that the damage to roads and other infrastructure could huinder the distribution of aid and relief supplies. ACT said:

“Since roads and bridges have been cut-off due to the rising of flood water at several places, transportation of relief materials to the flood affected villages would be the primary challenge for relief distribution. The situation may further be aggravated if rains continue in coming days and if there is an increase of flood water in the major rivers overflown. Therefore, it is also assumed that this may cause breaches of weak river embankments and cause damage to national and state highways in Assam and make access further challenging.”

Rivers and Rainfall

Rivers

ASDMA said that 10 rivers in the state were flowing above the danger mark, including the Brahmaputra and also smaller rivers and tributaries such as the Desang, Beki, Sankosh, Dikhow and Kushiyara.

The Brahmaputra was above danger levels at 5 stations in 5 different districts (Jorhat, Sontipur, Kamrup, Goalpara and Dhubri).

Rainfall

The most widely available figures in Assam are for the weather stations at Gauhati, Tezpur, North Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh Airport at Mohanbari, about 15 km north east of Dibrugarh City (Dibrugarh district), which sits on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

Figures below are for a 24 hour period from Ogimet.

11 to 12 July

  • North Lakhimpur – 70.2 mm
  • Dibrugarh – 74.0 mm

10 to 11 July

  • North Lakhimpur – 198.0 mm
  • Dibrugarh – 74.0 mm

09 to 10 July

  • North Lakhimpur – 270.0 mm
  • Dibrugarh – 82.0 mm
  • Gauhati – 65.8 mm
  • Tezpur – 75.0 mm

08 to 09 July

  • North Lakhimpur – 200.0 mm
  • Dibrugarh – 58.8 mm

07 to 08 July

  • North Lakhimpur – 87.0 mm

Forecast

The situation is likely to worsen in coming days as the water level in major rivers is continually rising above the danger level and more rainfall has been predicted by the Meteorological Department of India.

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