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19.07.2019 Europe

India floods death toll rises as heavier rains predicted

By Murali Krishnan - RFI
Murali Krishnan
JUL 19, 2019 EUROPE

The death toll from floods in north-eastern India and the northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has risen to at least 65 in the last week, with the met office predicting more rains to come.

Close to nine million people in the flood affected regions have been affected with nearly 300,000 living in relief camps. Road access to various districts and relief efforts have been disrupted due to flood waters and incessant rain.

The Brahmaputra River, which flows from the Himalayas into India and then through Bangladesh, has burst its banks, swamping more than 1,800 villages in the north-eastern state of Assam, which is on maximum alert.

Assam, which is traditionally flood prone, is in the grip of yet another flood, with 570,000 people alone affected across all 33 districts, and 36 people killed besides hundreds of animals. This is the first wave of floods this monsoon season and flood control experts expect at least two more.

“This is only the first major flood wave this season. We are expected to experience two to three more before the end of the rainy season, which will last till mid-October,” Partha Das, who heads the Water, Climate and Hazard Division of 'Aaranyak', an environmental organisation, told RFI.

Wildlife affected
The floods have had a huge impact on wildlife in the state. National parks and animal sanctuaries have also been badly affected with animals trying to escape from the flood waters.

The Kaziranga National Park - home to the endangered one-horn rhinoceros - has been submerged.

The death toll of animals has gone up to 30 with the carcasses of many animals slowly emerging. They include several one-horned rhinos and elephants.

In one instance of survival, a female tiger which fled a wildlife park was found on a bed inside a local resident's house. Authorities have also stepped up vigil to protect animals from poachers.

“Rhinos and other animals are taking shelter in artificially created higher ground or have crossed to higher areas. Ninety-five camps were submerged in water, and forest officers have been asked to remain on duty and their leaves cancelled,” Satyendra Singh, the park's director, told RFI.

He added that water level in the Brahmaputra was expected to come down by the end of this week, provided there was no more heavy rain.

Two years ago, over 360 animals including 31 rhinos and a tiger drowned in floods.

The entire north-eastern region has been put on high alert by disaster management agencies besides the police and the paramilitary who have issued an advisory to the people not to travel unless required in unavoidable situations.

The rains in north India usually last from early June to October, with the worst of the flooding usually later in the season. The met office predicts more rains in the coming day and if a few larger flood waves hit the region, this year could well be recorded as one of the most severe.