The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Special aircraft to map flood damage

Guwahati, July 18: A special aircraft of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will take high-resolution aerial photographs of Assam’s flood-ravaged districts to speed up the process of assessing the damage and deciding on the quantum of central financial assistance.

An official of the Assam State Remote Applications Centre (ASRAC) said the cameras on board the aircraft had been designed to pick out even submerged roads, metallic and non-metallic pipelines and sub-surface conditions.

A team from the department of space is already in the state, helping Dispur to establish emergency communication links.

Assam is reeling under the most devastating wave of floods in recent years. The surging Brahmaputra and its tributaries have inundated almost all the districts. The Tarun Gogoi government has sought Rs 1,200 crore for relief and rehabilitation operations, but Delhi has provided only Rs 181 crore so far.

Isro’s involvement is expected to speed up the process of assessing the damage caused by floods. Delhi usually sanctions funds only after making its own assessment of the damage. “The process takes several weeks because the survey teams start work only after the waters recede,” a source in Dispur said.

The ASRAC official said the photographs provided by Isro would make a huge difference to the process. “The two operators on board the aircraft will transfer the photographs directly to us. Within minutes of the photographs being taken, we can pass them on to the chief minister’s office.”

The flood-monitoring cell is located at the chief minister’s office.

At present, the government is getting images from the Canadian Radarsat satellite and daily satellite maps from the ASRAC.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to arrive in the state on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. A ministerial team will tour the state after the waters have receded.

A.M. Jha, director of the Ahmedabad-based Disaster Management Synthetic Aperture Radar Space Applications Centre said the cameras on board the Isro aircraft could take photographs even at night and through clouds.

The aircraft is kept at the National Remote Sensing Agency in Hyderabad and reach Guwahati in six hours. “The cameras are part of the airborne synthetic aperture radar system, which Isro is using to take photographs of flooded areas of Bihar and Orissa,” Jha said.

The flood situation in the state remains grim with the level of the Brahmaputra still rising in Dibrugarh town. Announcing the possibility of a disaster through the public address system, the district administration tonight asked residents of villages along the river to shift to safer places.

Sources said the administration had made arrangements to evacuate patients from the Assam Medical College and Hospital, which will be flooded if the river overtops the embankment.

The embankment and dyke department has deployed workers to repair the dyke at Maijan, which has been breached at many places.

“We have requested the army to be on alert and monitor the situation with helicopters,” additional deputy commissioner Samsher Singh said.

The army has been alerted in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh too. Helicopters have been requisitioned to evacuate marooned people in Lohit district, which remained cut-off for the second time following a heavy downpour.

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