IAF to airdrop food as millions displaced in Assam floods


Guwahati : Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters were kept on standby for airdropping essentials Monday as the rain-swollen Brahmaputra river cut a treacherous swath across Assam displacing about four million people and the met department warned of more thundershowers.

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"The situation has turned devastating overnight, drowning five more people in separate incidents and displacing another three million in 15 districts in the state," Bhumidhar Barman, Assam revenue, relief and rehabilitation minister, told IANS.

The total number of people now stranded by the floods in Assam stands at 4.1 million. The latest deaths took to 20 the number of people killed in flood-related accidents in the past week in Assam and adjoining Meghalaya as heavy monsoon rains and melting Himalayan snow combined to swell the major Brahmaputra river.

The fresh deaths were reported from the western Dhubri, Goalpara and Nalbari districts.

"We have kept on alert the Indian Air Force to swing into action for airdropping food and other essentials in some areas where all communication links have remained cut off due to heavy flooding," the minister said.

Army soldiers are continuing a massive rescue and relief operation in parts of western and northern Assam.

"The army soldiers are using rubber boats and rafts in many places to evacuate and rescue people trapped in the floods," Barman said.

A Central Water Commission bulletin Monday said all major rivers and their tributaries in Assam are flowing above the danger mark and in full spate.

The worst hit by floods is the eastern Dhemaji district where an estimated 250,000 have been displaced and are taking shelter in makeshift arrangements on raised embankments, government schools and offices.

"We have been providing food and other supplies, including medicines, to the flood affected people," Dhemaji district magistrate Diwakar Mishra said.

The government Monday sounded a health alert and rushed team of doctors and paramedics to the flood-hit areas by boats and rafts to treat people with water-borne diseases.

"We have also sent veterinarians along with adequate cattle and poultry feed in several areas," the minister said.

The Regional Meteorological Centre here Monday warned of more rains and thundershowers. The 2,906 km long Brahmaputra is one of Asia's largest rivers that traverses its first stretch of 1,625 km in China's Tibet region, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km through neighbouring Bangladesh before converging into the Bay of Bengal.

Every year, the floods leave a trail of destruction, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields and drowning livestock, besides causing loss of human life and property in the state of 26 million people.

The monsoon was scattered in Assam last year thereby sparing millions of people from the ravaging floods. In 2004, at least 200 people had died and more than 12 million were displaced by the floods.