PM Announces Rs5b Aid For Assam

The worst monsoon floods in a decade to hit Assam have killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million to leave their homes, officials said on Monday.

Villagers travel on a boat through floodwaters in Tataliguri, Morigoan district, some 80km from Guwahati.

The worst monsoon floods in a decade to hit Assam have killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million to leave their homes, officials said on Monday.

Nearly half a million people are living in relief camps that have been set up across Assam state, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists in Guwahati, Assam’s capital. The rest of the 2 million displaced have moved in with relatives or are living in the open, sheltering under tarpaulin sheets.

The prime minister announced the government would give immediate assistance of Rs5 billion ($90 million) to the state.

Assam officials say 81 people have been killed over the past four days. Most of them were swept away when the mighty Brahmaputra River overflowed its banks and flooded villages.

Sixteen people were buried in landslides triggered by the rains.  At least 11 people were missing in six districts, the state disaster management agency said in its bulletin.

Air force helicopters were dropping food packets and drinking water to marooned people, Singh said after surveying the flood-hit districts. Congres president Sonia Gandhi also surveyed the flood-hit state.

Army soldiers used boats to rescue villagers from rooftops of flooded homes.

Teams of doctors have opened health clinics in the 770 relief camps that had been set up across Assam, one of India’s main tea-growing states.

The hilly tea growing areas have not been affected, but lower rice fields have been washed away.

Thousands of cattle have perished after being swept away by the raging water or getting stuck in the mud. The stench of rotting animal carcasses was adding to the woes of the people in tents at the relief camps, officials said.

In the worst-hit Dhemaji district, raging waters of the Brahmaputra River swept away entire villages.

Officials said the entire Majuli island, one of the world’s largest river islands, was awash as water levels in the Brahmaputra rose above the danger level.

“This is one of the worst floods to hit Assam,” Singh said.

Railway workers were working round the clock to restore train services disrupted after railway tracks became submerged in flood water.

“Restoration of the railway line is a priority,” Singh said.

Officials say the situation was expected to improve over the next few days as the rain was tapering off and water levels were beginning to recede.

Meanwhile, Assam’s opposition parties, including the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and others, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the package announced by the prime minister.

AIUDF leader and Leader of Opposition Sirajuddin Ajmal said that Rs5 billion is not sufficient as immediate relief as there has been huge devastation and loss of human lives and property in the floods.

BJP state unit spokesman Santanu Bharali also echoed similar sentiments, and also criticised the response of the state government.

“With the waters starting to recede, now the major problem will start in the form of diseases. However, we have not seen any alertness on the part of the government to deal with the situations that normally arises after the floods,” he said.

Monsoon floods hit Assam, with a population of 26 million people, almost every year.