Home India News Slithering snakes, rats scare people in flood-hit Assam

Slithering snakes, rats scare people in flood-hit Assam

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Majuli (Assam) : Rabin Payeng is a worried man as his wife and three children are scared to sleep under a makeshift tarpaulin tent pitched on an embankment with poisonous snakes slithering around.

“I was awake the whole night to guard against rats and snakes which were seen in large numbers in the area,” said Payeng, a farmer in Majuli, South Asia’s largest river island in Assam.

Thousands of islanders were taking shelter in highlands and embankments after the surging floodwaters of the Brahmaputra river burst through a mud wall and inundated a large area of the 421 sq km Majuli, about 320 km east of the state’s main city Guwahati.

“On one hand we are facing the wrath of the floods and on the other we are constantly worried about possible snake bites. It is a real big problem with rats and snakes taking shelter inside homes and even in certain relief camps set up on raised platforms,” said Moromi Pegu, a housewife.

“The fear of snakebites is so serious that people are now terrified to sleep at night with snakes of all sizes moving around,” said Suren Das, another villager.

Health authorities have asked people to be vigilant about snakes, with the reptiles taking shelter inside homes and in makeshift camps as the land gets submerged by floodwaters.

“Anti-snake venom injection capsules are being supplied to district hospitals,” Bhumidhar Barman, Assam revenue, relief and rehabilitation minister, told IANS.

“Officially we don’t have any reports of snake bites so far, but then many cases simply go unreported with the people taking recourse to indigenous methods of treating such things through quacks,” said Barman, who is a doctor himself.

The floods that began in July have affected about 10,000 villages – the worst hit districts being Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dhubri, Morigaon, Barpeta, Jorhat and Nalbari.

“The overall flood situation is still critical with an estimated 10.3 million people displaced since July. In the current third wave of flooding that began last week, more than four million people have been hit,” the minister said.

“About 20 out of 27 districts have been affected by the floods with 62 people killed since July in separate incidents,” the minister said.

A Central Water Commission bulletin Wednesday said the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries were flowing above the danger level in at least 18 places and in full spate with heavy monsoon rains lashing the region.

“There are about 700 makeshift camps now where thousands of people are sheltered, while many more are staying in raised embankments and other such platforms under tarpaulin tents,” the minister said.