Despair, sorrow sweep flood-hit Meghalaya
TURA, OCTOBER 10
“I don’t know what to do and how to resume my life,” says a sobbing Jafar Ali, whose wife and three children were swept away in the recent flash floods in the Garo Hills.
“In a matter of minutes the flood waters claimed my wife, a son and two daughters while I was taking the other son to higher ground for safety,” mourned Ali.
“I wanted to rescue them all but I failed. I have lost my family and my house and there is nothing left but pain and sorrow,” the distraught man said.
But the carpenter is a fighter. “I will have to restart life for the sake of my son who is too young to understand the magnitude of this tragedy.”The floods and landslides in Garo Hills, in the western part of Meghalaya, the northeast Indian state bordering Bangladesh on two sides, claimed 59 lives and severely affected lives of more than 200,000 people. At least 1,170 villages were submerged after a cloudburst over Garo Hills.
Ironically, the cloudburst happened in the state whose name literally translates into ‘abode of the clouds’.
Diwakar Mann, another survivor, narrated how he managed to escape from the flood fury in Bholarbhita village. “I don’t know how to show you where our house stood earlier,” Mann said, pointing his fingers at the changed course of the Jinjiram river that overwhelmed over 300 households in the village.
The village lost almost 80 per cent of its land to the flood fury. Many victims are homeless. Houses in the village, located close to the Jinjiram river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, simply disappeared.
Erosion and slit deposit have changed the river route, which now passes through Bholarbhita village, 105 km from Tura town.
“There is no more Bholarbhita village. Everyone now calls this place Bholarbhita river. I don’t know how to get back our land,” Mann says, narrating the devastation caused by the September 23 flood fury.
“The government is providing us temporary shelter and relief. We all know we have to get back on our feet. I am sure it is going to be tough as we have lost our land and resources,” Mann said.
Another flood victim, Abdul Karim, was on the verge of tears.
“My house is gone, my money is gone and so is everything I ever owned. How do I feed my family after the government-provided relief runs out? I have to rebuild everything.”
Thousands of students in the flood-hit areas have lost their books, school uniforms and other educational items.
More than 200 school and colleges have been damaged by the flash floods. A few were washed away.
The disaster struck when school examinations were a few weeks away.
Many students in areas where the flood waters have receded have started rummaging through their damaged belongings hoping to find their books.
“I am looking for my text and note books. If I can locate even a few, I will be lucky. But I don’t think I will be able to get any of it,” despaired Robina Dalbot Shira, a Class 10 student.
Pravin Bakshi, the district magistrate of West Garo Hills, felt the causalties could have been more had not the North East Space Application sounded an alert.
“The early warning system of NESAC warned of extremely heavy rains,” Bakshi told said, adding the people had experienced floods in August too.
“The floods have been devastating… The scenes of devastation were difficult to believe. We saw piles of debris and broken homes everywhere.
“It is a tragedy the state has never seen in the past, and it is going to be a herculean task to rebuild the affected areas,” he explained.
The official appealed to relief and aid agencies to visit the flood-hit areas in the Chibanang area and render all possible help. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said, “We have not only lost precious lives but the quantum of damage is very high.
“We have been moved back 10 years in our development programme. All major areas have been devastated. Everywhere we went, there were only sad stories.
“The government is in the process of preparing a memorandum highlighting the suffering and destruction,” Sangma said.