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Students drown in flood fury

- Brahmaputra breaches Majuli dyke again; boat capsizes in Tinsukia

Jorhat, Sept 20: The flood situation in Upper Assam is turning grim again and the water level of the Brahmaputra is rising following incessant rain over the last few days.

Two college students drowned in the Brahmaputra this morning after the boat they were travelling in capsized at Dhola in Tinsukia district. The river also breached the embankment at Majuli’s Sonowal Kachari area for the second time this year and inundated large areas of the river island.

A district administration official in Tinsukia identified the two students as Rajkumar Choudhury and Dilip Mullah of Doomdooma College. They were travelling in a country boat with several others when the boat capsized around 10.30am. Their bodies were later recovered.

According to the official, the flood situation in the district has deteriorated with large areas being inundated by floodwaters. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries are also swelling because of heavy rain on the hills of Arunachal Pradesh.

Nearly 100 villages are reeling under floods in various parts of the district, especially in Dhola and Sadiya areas, the official said. Ferry services between Dhola and Sadiya and between Neemati ghat and Majuli were suspended yesterday because of the rising water levels.

At least 20 relief camps have been opened in several flood-affected areas and the army has been called out to help in relief and rescue operations. “Two teams of the National Disaster Relief Force are on their way from Guwahati to carry out rescue operations,” the official said. Helicopters have also been kept on standby.

Floodwaters had breached the embankment in upper Majuli in July this year. It gave way again at 11am today. Majuli SDO (civil) Laya Maduri said three villages had been inundated and people were evacuated to a safer location.

“Water is still entering the place through the breach and the administration is geared up to tackle any eventuality. Food and other materials will be distributed once a tally of those affected is made,” she said.

If the Brahmaputra keeps rising, then more than 20 villages will be flooded by tonight, a source said.

“The water resources department has done a poor job of repairing the embankment. They only placed sandbags and bamboo even though more than Rs 1 crore was spent on repairs,” he alleged.

Floodwaters have also submerged vast areas of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and forest officials are trying their best to rescue the marooned animals. “There are no reports of any deaths of animals till now. Most of the animals of the park are taking shelter on higher ground,” a park official said.

The Brahmaputra and its tributaries are flowing above the danger level in all the districts of upper Assam since last night. Vast areas of Neematighat have been flooded and large areas of Dibrugah district are also reeling under the floods. At Neematighat water is flowing more than 1 metre above the danger level. According to the state disaster management authority, floods have hit Kamrup, Baksa and Udalguri districts.

The heavy downpour has also prompted Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki to put the state on red alert.

Expressing concern over reports of heavy flooding in Lower Dibang Valley, Changlang and Lohit districts, Tuki today placed Rs 10 lakh each with the deputy commissioners and Rs 5 lakh each with the additional deputy commissioners of these districts for immediate relief measures, the chief minister’s office said.

Tuki, who is currently in Delhi, is in constant touch with officials and the state police. Directives have been issued to all the district officers to remain in their respective places of posting and the chief minister has asked the disaster management director to co-ordinate with the district administration and give daily reports on the situation.