Assam faces the annual calamity of floods during the monsoon months, when incessant rains batter the northeastern state. But the yearly event seems to have arrived early this year, with Assam already having witnessed several instances of flooding and landslides in the last few days, resulting in the loss of life and property. And the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has decreed that more rainfall is imminent for the region.
Intense weather impacts 57,000 people across state
While the Northeast has been witnessing rainfall activity since mid-April, the rains were more of a welcome respite from the punishing summer heat. But the conditions intensified considerably in the past week, influenced by the presence of Cyclone Asani in the Bay of Bengal.
At least three people, including a woman, have been killed, and a few others have gone missing following heavy landslides triggered by continuous rains in the Dima Hasao district. Officials of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said that the persons lost their lives in the Haflong revenue circle of Dima Hasao district during the weekend.
ASDMA estimates suggest that 57,000 individuals from 222 villages in Assam have been impacted by the heavy rains, with around 10321.44 hectares of cultivated land being submerged under floodwaters. About 200 houses have been destroyed in the state as well.
Disruption in statewide transportation
The transport in the state has taken a major hit as well. In more than nine spots, the mountainous territory has been wrecked by flash floods and significant landslides, cutting off essential train and road connections from other parts of the state and region. Railway lines at Jatinga-Harangajao and Mahur-Phaiding were snapped due to the landslides as well.
Army and Air Force had to be called in to airlift 100 odd elderly rail passengers stranded in the hilly terrain in Assam’s Dima Hasao district, where a landslide brought rail connectivity to a grinding halt.
“Between Dima Hasao and Cachar district, one train was stranded due to a landslide. Out of the 1,300 people on board, 1,200 could walk across the broken bridge to reach a special train. But 100 passengers who are old and aged have no other way but need to be airlifted,” ASDMA CEO GD Tripathi told TOI. He said the process of airlifting started on Sunday morning. “The railway bridge has broken, though the rail track is still intact.”
The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) evacuated over 1,500 stranded passengers. At the same time, over 25 trains connecting Tripura, Mizoram, and southern Assam had to be cancelled, officials said on Sunday.
The majority of the stranded passengers were evacuated by rail from Ditokcherra on Sunday, while the remaining passengers were airlifted to Silchar by IAF choppers.
“The stranded passengers of these trains are safe. All kinds of essential items like food and drinking water are being arranged by the railway authorities for them,” an NFR official said.
Services of 25 pairs of trains have been cancelled or partially cancelled between Jatinga Lumpur and New Harangajao and between Bandarkhal and Ditokcherra sections and other locations in the Lumding-Badarpur hill section of NFR’s Lumding division.
Heavy downpours to persist
For the week to come, the IMD has forecast isolated heavy to very heavy rains over Assam for the next five days — until Friday, May 20 and possibly beyond. Thunderstorms and lightning may accompany the rains in several districts of the state in the coming days.
Accordingly, the ASDMA has issued a flood alert for Cachar, Dhemaji, Morigaon Karimganj, and Nagaon districts. 29 relief camps in the state were sheltering over 4,000 people from the flood-effected areas as of Sunday, May 15.
Meanwhile, persistent wet conditions for the past month or so have resulted in a wetter-than-usual pre-monsoon season for Assam. Between March 1 and May 15, the state has recorded 545.6 mm precipitation — an excess of 40% as compared to its long-term average of 389.2 mm.
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