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Looming humanitarian crisis in North-East as floods wreak havoc

Incessant rains lasting over six days have wrecked havoc in Meghalaya and Assam, flooding the two States severely and taking over 50 lives and affecting over three lakh people. South West Garo Hill district, West Gao Hill district and North Garo Hills district in Meghalaya are severely affected and adjacent districts of Goalpara, Dhubri and Kamrup in Assam are also inundated. The Borjhar-based Regional Meteorology Centre  has predicted heavy to very heavy rains on the 25th of September, which could add to the woes of affected people.

ActionAid India’s emergency response team is now assessing the damage in all these affected areas and reports coming in indicate an immediate need for dry ration (Chira, Gur), drinking water, shelter materials, candles and mosquito repellents. 

Rivers - Dudhnoi, the Krishnai, Zinari and Zingiram – have breached the embankments washing away hundreds of homes, destroying crops and other key infrastructure. The communication networks are also down in most of the areas, making it difficult to assess the extent of damage in some of the interior areas. People are moving into high ground, including the national highway and are sheltering in schools and other available spaces. Electricity has been cut off for security reasons leaving people in utter darkness. The road connectivity between South and West Garo hills are breached at Rongsak and Rongden.

“With the floods occurring just as the planting season got over and destroying the standing crops, there are fears of a major food and economic crisis affecting the rural populations unless effective measures are taken.”, says Mrinal who leads ActionAid India’s Guwahati office.

“ActionAid has been responding to natural disasters across the Northeast since 2002. The flood situation in Garo Hills and Goalpara are very serious and require an immediate humanitarian response. With our partners on the ground we are assisting the local administration in reaching out to unreached and marooned populations in Goalpara and are hoping to move into the Garo Hills districts as soon as possible. There is a requirement of food for children particularly, safe drinking water, tarpaulin sheets, medicines and toiletries for sanitation”, adds Mrinal.

The last four months have seen heavy floods occurring in Assam, Odisha, Kashmir, Bihar and now again in the North Eastern region.  While Kosi floods and floods in Assam are almost an annual affair, there are increasing concerns about the frequency with which extreme weather conditions are happening.

“Over the years, we have been warned by experts about increasing extreme weather conditions as a sign of climate change. It is ironic that while global leaders pay lip service (the just concluded UN climate summit in New York being a case in point), to addressing climate change, communities continue to face the brunt in the frontlines.” says, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid India.

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