87 killed, 2.5 million affected by floods in India’s pandemic-hit Assam state
Severe floods triggered by monsoon rains have affected 2.5 million people in India’s Assam state, struggling already to contain the Covid-19 virus that has been infecting more than 1,000 people every day for the past week in the tea-producing region.
India’s Central Water Commission on Wednesday issued a “severe flood alert” and said water levels in rain-swollen rivers such as Kopili would rise further in the state bordering Bangladesh.
Assam’s largest river, the Brahmaputra, which pours down from Tibet, was menacingly overflowing.
“By tomorrow evening, Brahmaputra is expected to rise by 16 centimeters (6.2 inches) compared to this afternoon,” the commission said on Wednesday.
At least 87 people have drowned in boating accidents or been killed by landslides in the past two weeks.
At least 2.5 million others have been displaced by the flooding, according to the Assam Disaster Management Authority.
At least 2,300 villages were under water and crops have been destroyed across 25 million acres of flooded farmland.
Some 48,000 people were sheltering in overcrowded government buildings on higher land with little or no physical distancing measures in place.
Floods a result of bad planning
Assam government minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his administration was helpless even as the weather office forecast widespread rains in Assam and 11 nearby Indian states this week.
“An earthen embankment cannot resist water pouring (out) from Bramhaputra so we called for a scientific solution but the solution has not yet reached our hands,” he told India Today TV station.
Sunita Narain, who heads Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based research and advocacy group, blamed the floods in Assam on bad planning.
“The flood management strategy in India has to change from controlling rivers, which is this very masculine way of managing nature, to actually learning to live with floods,” she told the station.
The environmentalist also alleged political corruption had contributed to the problem in Assam, India’s largest tea-growing state.
Popular wildlife park sinks, rare rhinos killed in floods
The floods also killed 120 wild animals in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to tigers, elephants and the world’s largest population of rare one-horned rhinoceroses.
At least nine of the park’s 2,400 rhinos have drowned.
“At present 80 percent of the national park is under water,” said park director P. Sivakumar as minister Sarma took a tour of the submerged Kaziranga, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The picturesque Kaziranga National Park and its wonderful inhabitants are struggling with fury of flood.— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) July 20, 2020
I made an extensive visit of the Park to gauge the extent of damages, & have instructed officials to do the best we can. My compliments to the staff for their spirited work. pic.twitter.com/QehWCqPi63
Covid-19 virus spreads in flooded Assam
Assam is also in grave difficulty with the Covid-19 virus spreading rapidly among its 30 million people.
The state reported the highest single-day spike of 1,680 new cases in 24 hours, taking the tally to 26,772 cases and 64 deaths so far.
Last week, India posted more than one million confirmed cases, the third highest in the world after Brazil and the United States.
The monsoon floods have also wreaked havoc in Nepal, with at least 110 people killed since June and more than one million displaced.
At least 81 people have also died in adjoining Bangladesh with a third of the country under swirling floods.
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