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Floods in India (2003)

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India: Assam floods Information Bulletin No. 3/2003
The annual South Asia monsoon, while in its early stages, is having a severe impact on populations in the region. To date, at least 255 deaths, directly related to the monsoon, have been recorded in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is only the start of India's monsoon season, and the Indian Meteorological Department forecasts a higher than usual rainfall for India over the next three months.


The flood situation in India's states of Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh, appears grim. Most rivers in these areas are flowing above the danger level, and the water levels show no signs of receding. Many districts remain cut off from the rest of the country as flood waters have badly damaged the roads.

The worst-hit areas in India are the north-eastern states of Assam and Bihar. It is estimated that some 20,000 people are stranded in a single district of Assam, where more than a dozen emergency camps have been set up to provide shelter, food, clothing and medicine for the homeless. With more than 70 percent of its one billion citizens engaged in agriculture, India depends on the monsoon's rains. However, parts of the country such as Assam, where more than 100 rivers flow from surrounding mountains, are ill equipped to deal with the annual deluge.

In neighboring West Bengal state, at least 25 people were killed early on Tuesday in landslides caused by heavy monsoon rains, and nearly 200 were left homeless in the mountainous district of Darjeeling. The Flooding has washed away thousands of bamboo and straw huts, as well as roads, bridges, railway tracks and power lines.

The flood situation in the North Bengal District of the State is severe following ten days of continuous rain. Darjeeling's hilly interior region has been practically cut off, and the road links with both Darjeeling and Sikkim remain blocked.

Bihar's state capital Patna, has been added to the list of flood affected districts in Bihar. The overflowing Punpun River is threatening to inundate low-lying areas around the city. Bihar experienced the first wave of floods due to heavy rainfall in its upper catchments areas during the last week of June. The current flood has affected six districts so far: Samastipur, Muzzaffarpur, Madhubani, Sheohar, West Samparan and East Samparan. The number of people marooned by the floods is now 250,000. Communication systems have been severely affected including road links. The only means of access at the moment is by river boats. The number of displaced persons is increasing daily and the figure at 9 July was as follows:

District Displaced persons
Samastipur 50,000
Muzaffarpur 25,000
Madhubani 35,000
Sheohar 22,000
West Champaran 10,000
East Champaran 15,000


The coastal area of Orissa has been threatened by more floods as heavy rains pound the upper and lower catchments areas of the Mahanadi River.

The flood situation in Arunachal Pradesh has become more severe with areas of East Siang and Lohit joining the list of districts affected. The surface communication between Pasighat, Pangin and Boleng in East Siang districts has remained cut-off since 5 July. Shortages of essential commodities have been reported in some parts of the state. The water level of the Siang River and its tributaries are also flowing above danger level.