x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Floods and landslides force 1.5m to flee homes in India

Flash floods and landslides have killed at least 30 people and forced nearly 1.5 million to flee their homes in north-east India.

Manoranjan Kalita carries his goats as his wife, Deepika Kalita, waits on a raft to leave their flooded house in Lachi Bishnupur village, west of Gauhati.
Manoranjan Kalita carries his goats as his wife, Deepika Kalita, waits on a raft to leave their flooded house in Lachi Bishnupur village, west of Gauhati.

GUWAHATI, India // Flash floods and landslides have killed at least 30 people and forced nearly 1.5 million people to flee their homes in north-east India, authorities said yesterday.

"Eighteen of 27 districts of Assam have been hit by floods with 1.4 million displaced and 11 people drowned in separated incidents in the past week," the disaster management agency said.

The floods, caused by relentless rain, marked the second round of massive flooding in two months in India's impoverished north-east, and come towards the end of the June to September monsoon season.

Nearly 130 people died and six million were displaced by floods in Assam state in July.

Rescue officials said in the latest floods, at least 2,200 villages had been swamped by overflowing waters from the rain-swollen Brahmaputra River.

Himanta Biswa Sarmah, the health minister of Assam state, said that a "maximum health alert" to avert outbreaks of diarrhoea or diseases such as typhoid had been declared in the devastated zone.

The annual monsoon provides vital irrigation for India's farmers but also claims many casualties from flooding and landslides.

Officials said flooding victims had been evacuated to temporary shelters on higher ground.

"We've dispatched doctors and paramedics to ensure there is no outbreak of disease," Mr Sarmah said in Guwahati, Assam's largest city.

Victims and an opposition party staged protests in flood-hit areas against what they said were shortages of emergency supplies in the Congress-ruled state.

"The government has failed to provide adequate relief supplies including food and medicines," said Sarbananda Sonowal, a state leader of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. "In many parts of the state people are even living without food."

Rehab India Foundation, a voluntary group said heavy rains disrupted its plans to supply food and other essential items to flood-hit people.

Almost the entire 420 square kilometres of Kaziranga National Park was also flooded, the Press Trust of India reported.

The wildlife park is home to the world's single largest population of one-horned rhinos. A 2012 census in Kaziranga counted 2,290 of the rhinos, out of a global population of 3,300.

The species declined to near extinction in the early 1990s and is listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers, who kill the animals for their horns. These fetch huge prices in some Asian countries, where they are deemed to be an aphrodisiac.