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Church groups join rush to help Assam flood victims

4:25 PM, July 17, 2019

India(Delhi):Millions left homeless and 15 dead as villages are submerged in the vast Indian state.

People watch as an embankment is breached at Hajo in Assamís Kamrup district on July 13 as the flood situation worsens in the northeastern state, displacing millions of people. (IANS photo)

Church groups in India’s Assam state have stepped up their humanitarian efforts after catastrophic floods wreaked havoc, leaving 15 people dead and an estimated 4.6 million homeless.

More than 4,157 villages in 30 districts are submerged in the northeastern state as rains continue unabated, raising the water level of the Brahmaputra River above the danger level.

At least 15 people are reported to have been killed in flash floods and landslides, according to government figures. More than 83,000 have been evacuated to 200 relief camps, run in collaboration with non-governmental agencies.

Father Varghese Velickakam, convener of a network of voluntary agencies called the Inter-Agency Group, said it was coordinating the state’s relief efforts with those of national and international agencies.

Assam’s Health Services Department has also been asked to address urgent medical issues arising from the floods.

Father Velickakam said the Church’s social service group, Caritas India, had begun planning through its diocesan units to ensure the immediate supply of drinkable water aside from other immediate and long-term assistance in the provision of food and life essentials.

“There is a dire need for temporary shelters with basic sanitation facilities for those on embankments and roadsides,” the priest said. “We are also planning to take concrete measures to protect vulnerable groups, particularly children and women, who are taking shelter in camps and other safe places.”

Allen Brooks, spokesman of the Assam Christian Forum, told that Catholic bishops in all 14 dioceses of Assam had instructed parishes to open their institutions such as schools and hostels to shelter and help the flood victims.

“Church groups are also offering voluntary work to district officials so that we can work in tandem with the state and help in all possible ways,” Brooks said.

Kaziranga National Park, which hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses, has been marooned and 17 animals have died, according to initial reports.

The Assam state government says 15 National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 380 personnel have been deployed to rescue people from flood-affected areas.

Floods have become an annual feature in Assam, the largest of India’s northeastern states. Its topography and meteorological factors such as exposure to high rainfall make it prone to floods.

British charity Oxfam, in a detailed report on last year’s Assam floods, estimated that more than three million hectares of land in Assam was prone to floods, of which roughly one million hectares was directly affected every year.

The social, economic and ecological costs from successive floods are huge, says the report, added that Assam had already suffered irreversible land erosion.

“Since 1954, erosion of over 0.42 million hectares of land has happened, which is a whopping 7.1 percent of the state’s landmass,” the report said. “Southern Assam has borne the maximum brunt of erosion, which has swept away several villages and small towns.”

Source: UCAN

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