Assam government starts low-cost flights for stranded passengers
The Assam government has tied up with FlyBig airline to run an emergency Silchar-Guwahati flight service at subsidised rate to help those stranded because of disruption in road and rail connectivity after the flood and landslides triggered by heavy rain since Saturday.
The first flight left Guwahati for Silchar with 70 passengers at 5pm on Thursday and returned with 64 passengers from Silchar to Guwahati even as the administration stepped up response and recovery efforts to tide over the crisis affecting 29 districts and leaving nine dead and over 7.17 lakh affected.
Rail connectivity to south Assam (Barak Valley), Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur through Dima Hasao got disrupted since Saturday because of landslides at 52 places on the Lumding-Badarpur hill section. Similarly road routes through Lumding to Silchar and through Jowai (Meghalaya) to Silchar that connects with Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur also got snapped on Saturday.
“This special flight service will continue for ten days at a fixed cost of Rs 3,000 per person from Thursday. We have received a lot of calls,” an Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) official told The Telegraph. ATDC has signed the MoU with FlyBig airline to run the special flights, a first-of-its-kind effort to evacuate people.
Heavy rush for tickets had seen price of one-way flight ticket jump manifold from the usual Rs 3,500-4,000 per person sparking off concern and inconvenience among those stuck either in Barak Valley or in Guwahati.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma revealed the decision to fly out the stranded in Barak Valley to Guwahati and vice versa after weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening as the state continued to battle fury unleashed by unprecedented rainfall in May leading to widespread disruption and devastation in the state, especially Dima Hasao, Cachar and Hojai districts.
A railway official said on Thursday they have set a deadline of July 1 to restore the rail link. Given the overall situation, Tripura and Mizoram have started rationing petroleum products till normalcy is restored.
Besides tying up with FlyBig, the chief minister also revealed that Indian Air Force will evacuate those stranded in Dima Hasao to Jorhat and Silchar and also drop food items in Dima Hasao to tide over any shortage. On Thursday, 128 of around 400 stranded were evacuated to Silchar, while the six metric tonne of food was dropped in Dima Hasao.
“I just want to convey that we will be with the people of the state,” Sarma said attributing the unprecedented situation to heavy rainfall.
Dima Hasao has been receiving rainfall since May 12 and it’s still continuing. The Met office has said the three districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj of Barak Valley will receive rainfall till Sunday.
“In May 2021, we received 150mm rainfall, but in May this year we have received more than 400mm of rainfall, more than double. Water is rushing from the hills and flooding the low lying areas,” Sarma said.
A railway official told this newspaper of the 52 locations hit by landslides in the hill section, they have managed to restore 12 sites by Thursday sending man and machines on foot and trolleys.
The chief minister said the Centre has extended a financial assistance of Rs 1,000 crore to the state government to tide over the devastation and disruption caused by flood and landslides. “We have already released Rs 150 crore to the districts,” he said.
Neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, which is also witnessing incessant rainfall triggering landslides and flood, is also on high alert. So far five people have died in landslides in the state capital Itanagar.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu convened a meeting on monsoon preparedness involving all stakeholders at the State Civil Secretariat in Itanagar on Thursday and conveyed to officials at the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) to personally call the district administrations or the District Disaster Management Officer (DDMO) concerned to ensure that the warning related to weather is conveyed in advance to minimise damage.