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Fatal floods, landslides strike India's northeastern regions

July 2, 2024

Several people have died in northeastern India, as the region faces heavy floods and landslides. Rescue operations are underway.

Floods in Assam are engulfing houses
Assamese villagers are using boats to travel across flooded areasImage: Anuwar Hazarika/NurPhotoIMAGO

Heavy rains in northeastern India triggered floods and landslides in the region. At least 16 people have died over the last two weeks and more than 300,000 have been displaced from their submerged homes, local authorities said on Tuesday.

One of the worst hit places is the state of Assam, where the Indian Army and Air Force have been assisting with rescue efforts. A military helicopter flew out on Tuesday to bring 13 fishermen to safety, after they had been stranded for four days on a small river island on the Brahmaputra, officials said.

A woman fetches water in a flood-affected area in Assam
A woman fetches water in a flood-affected area in Assam Image: Javed Dar/Xinhua/picture alliance

The Brahmaputra is one of Asia's largest rivers and isknown to overflow annually. The river, which originates in the Tibetan Himalayas, flows roughly 1,280 kilometers (around 800 miles) through Assam before crossing into Bangladesh.

Authorities have called on people in more than 2,000 island villages to seek higher ground, India TV reported. 

Crops hit hard, roads blocked, aid access difficult

The northeastern region, especially the state of Assam is known for it's expansive tea plantations, which have been affected due to the floods.

"The water and mud have destroyed our crops. Especially the tea plantations," Bijoy Chetri, a local resident living in the Dhekiajuli province of Assam told DW. "The roads are blocked and vehicle aids are not reaching our villages," he said.

Torrential rain sweeps across northern India

Neighboring Indian states also badly hit

Landslides have wiped out several roads in Assam's neighboring state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a border with China. The army rescued around 70 students and teachers from a flooded school in Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh, police confirmed.

Bridges have collapsed and roads have been affected in other neighboring states like Sikkim, Manipur and Meghalaya.

More than 80 people across six northeastern states have died since the end of May due to floods and mudslides brought on by the rains, according to official figures.

Animals affected by heavy rains in Assam

Assam is home to the famous Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the endangered Asian elephant and one-horned rhinos.

The animals are moving to higher ground to escape the floods, forest authorities said, and park rangers are monitoring their movements to ensure their safety.

"We are seeing elephant herds migrating towards Arunachal Pradesh, which is also badly hit," local resident Chetri told DW.

"Disasters caused by landslides and floods are common in the country's northeast region during the June-September monsoon season," the state's Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. 

India on climate change red-alert

Due to intense rain and floods, India, and particularly the state of Assam, is one of the world's most vulnerable regions to climate change, according to a 2021 report by the New Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

The region has many plains and valleys, as well as regular severe rainstorms and hot weather.

Edited by: Mark Hallam