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Monsoon Leaves 400,000 People Homeless in Northeast India

Monsoon Rains Displace 400,000 People in India

Environmental News Service, June 18, 2003

GUWAHATI, Assam, India -- Monsoon rains have dislodged some 400,000 people in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, causing them to flee their homes along rivers that are flowing above the danger level. The Indian Army has detailed troops to serve as rescue workers for those left homeless in 450 villages along the Brahmaptura and Barak rivers.

Railway tracks and roads are under water across Assam, and Assams Lokapriya Gopinath Borodolai International Airport soon could be under water if a mud dyke on the edge of Guwahati is flooded over.

With some railway lines submerged, transport links to the district have been disrupted forcing people to use makeshift boats and rafts of banana leaves and bamboo to get around. The International Red Cross says its volunteers are also using such rafts to distribute relief supplies to those who have been affected, including food provided by the government.

The worst affected districts are Hailakandi and Karimganj in the south, Nalbari in the west and Dhemaji in the east of the state where displaced people are sheltering in makeshift tents on embankments and in government buildings and schools.

Official sources say that more than 40,000 people have been rendered homeless in the Dhemaji district, the worst affected area, by floodwaters of the Jiadhol river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. Dhemaji is 460 kilometers (285 miles) north of Assam's capital, Guwahati.

The Indian Red Cross at Dhemaji has deployed 40 volunteers trained in first aid and

disaster response to help the injured and to relocate those affected by the floods to safer places.

At least 113,000 people have been rendered homeless in Hailakandi district after more than 120 villages were flooded, according to local media.

From June to September, monsoon floods are an annual feature in the Brahmaputra-Barak basin, a land of hills, forests, cultivated lands, and tea gardens.

India's Central Water Commission officials said rivers in the state of Assam are flowing above danger levels in many places. Officials are making preparations to deal with this year's murderous monsoon season. In 2002, floods killed 100 people and displaced about 10 percent of Assam's population of 26 million.

The Brahmaputra flows south into adjacent Bangladesh before entering the Bay of Bengal, and now Bangladeshi officials are bracing for the annual deluge.

Some people have already lost their lives this season. Heavy rains Monday pounded the Bangladeshi coastal town of Cox's Bazar on the Bay of Bengal, triggering a landslide which buried five people alive and injured several others.

The Bangladesh Flood Forecasting and Warning Center has issued flood warnings for the eastern part of the country along the Kushiyara River at Amaishid and Sheola, and the Surma River at Kangaighat, which are now flowing above the danger level.

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