Floodwaters began to recede in a remote area of northeastern India on Tuesday, permitting thousands of exhausted people to wade through water and return to their homes once they left relief camps. Close to half a million people had to take refuge in camps that were staged in government buildings. The region of Assam was devastated by the monsoon floods, killing 95 people and leaving 14 missing since the beginning of last week.
Drinking water and food was being supplied by soldiers in helicopters for the two million people affected by the floodwaters, according to Army Lieutenant Col. N.N. Joshi said. Officials were trying to figure out how to get rid of thousands of cattle carcasses now that the waters have begun to recede. Joshi said that local officials and soldiers would work to bury the dead animals to prevent any disease from spreading.
The smell of dead animals was overpowering in Sonitpur, possibly the district that was hit the hardest from the floods.
“I am waiting for the water to go down some more before we can remove the carcasses and bury the dead animals,” said Bhim Bahadur. Bahadur is a dairy farmer from the village of Phateki in Sonitpur. Bahadur had to sprinkle powdered lime around his home in order to act as a disinfectant. A little more than a dozen of Bahadur’s cows were swept away by the current from the Brahmaputra River and he could see some of the bodies of the cows stuck in a bamboo thicket not far from his house.
“One of the embankments of the river burst, and the water washed into the house and fields, taking away everything,” Bahadur said.
“We’ve lost all our land documents and school certificates,” Sabita Debi, Bahadur’s daughter-in-law, said.
Relief camps were being visited by army doctors and local medical teams to hopefully prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases, according to Joshi. “We are handing out anti-malaria pills and distributing disinfectants to maintain hygiene,” Joshi said.
There are 27 districts in Assam, with all of them being affected by the flood in one way or another. The floods caused tens of thousands of acres of rice and crops to be washed away. The floods began on June 27 as a result of torrential rains. Sonia Gandhi, the head of India’s ruling Congress Party, conducted an aerial survey of the flooded areas on Monday along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh said that the national government would provide $90 million in assistance to help Assam with the emergency. Assam has a population of close to 26 million people and monsoon floods hit the state almost each year.