Floods Trigger Huge Crisis For Assam Villages Crippled By COVID-19

People in Assam's Barpeta district are facing unimaginable difficulties because of the floods that have come at a time of the coronavirus crisis.

More than 16 lakh people are affected by the Assam floods.

Guwahati:

For 55-year-old Abdul Kaizuddin in Assam's Barpeta district, floods are nothing new. This year, however, compounded by the coronavirus crisis, the floods haven been especially exacting on the vegetable seller and his family of eight in the Kanchanpur village of Baghbar area, 130 km west of Guwahati. Warned about the COVID-19 outbreak, he did not venture out of his village and now his last hope - a field of standing crops - is all under water.

"We have faced many floods, but this time the situation is hard for us. We have not seen such huge volumes of flood waters before. Our lives have been totally disturbed," Abdul told NDTV.

The state of his family echoes across Baghbar in this wave of floods in Assam. Like in past, the poor and the marginalised in rural areas are suffering the worst. Their livelihood was hit in these areas because of the COVID-19 lockdown and they survived on vegetables and grains they produced. Now, all that has been washed away.

On Thursday, the flood situation remained unchanged. 2,053 villages in 22 districts of Assam are inundated. Over 16 lakh people are affected. More than 12,000 of them are in 163 relief camps. Over 72,000 hectares pf cropland is under floodwater. The number of deaths in the floods has gone up to 34 with one more death on Thursday.

Meanwhile in Baghbar, 35-year-old Fakruddion rows the NDTV team to his house completely inundated by flood water. He is a fisherman and has a family of four to feed. Even with the flood waters rising, he does not want to go to a relief camp for the fear of coronavirus.

"The flood has come amid lockdown. This has crippled us. How can we go to relief camp amid this coronavirus scare?" asked Fakruddin.

The local MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed is busy travelling to the interior stretches distributing flood relief including food and grain.

"Floods are nothing new and this time this area is among the worst hit. But it came at a time when we were learning to live with COVID-19. We have been making people aware, training people on COVID. Now we have to deal with the floods and try to see how both can be handled hand in hand," said Mr Ahmed.

Since the independence, the Brahmaputra River has eroded over 2,000 villages, around 1.30 lakh families in Assam have been left homeless over decades of cycles of floods and erosion.

"COVID-19 pandemic has hit us badly since we are labourers. No one could venture out for work. Children are getting only one meal a day and now the floods... We don't know if we will survive," said another flood victim Samiruddin.