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Cloudburst in GH inundates 4 villages, threatens 12 others
Raksamgre and Tikrikilla bear brunt
TURA: A cloudburst over Raksamgre and Tikrikilla region, in the northern plains of West Garo Hills, caused extensive flooding inundating four villages and washing away roads and bridges early Sunday morning.
The sudden deluge forced over a thousand people from four villages in the Nidanpur, Tikrikilla and Raksamgre region to seek refuge on higher ground as the Daren stream, passing through the area, transformed into a roaring river breaching embankments and washing away two wooden bridges that connected the area to the rest of the district.
“It was a cloudburst that occurred late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Fortunately, there have been no casualties but four villages are completely flooded including Raksamgre market and schools.
The Agia-Medipara- Phulbari-Tikrikilla (AMPT) road has been cut off as flood waters have washed away portions of the road along with two bridges,” informed West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner Ram Singh while speaking to The Shillong Times.
An advisory has been issued against travelling on the AMPT road until further orders. The cloudburst caused the flood waters to rise over six feet in many areas inundating the entire Raksamgre market and a COVID-19 quarantine centre at New Model School in the town prompting authorities to move the inmates to another building located on higher ground. The quarantine centre houses state returnees to the region where they are housed for around two days as they await RT-PCR test results before being released to their respective homes for a mandatory two-week home quarantine. ) “There were around twenty inmates at the quarantine centre and they were due to be released on Sunday morning to head home when the flood occurred,” the DC said.
He warned that the threat of more flooding remains as the weather forecast predicts another spell of heavy rainfall for the next three days and orders have been issued to move residents out from the four affected villages and another 12 nearby villages.
Ten relief camps have been set up in safe zones to house the affected people.
Villagers refuse relocation
However, despite the grim warnings and the setting up of relief camps, there has been opposition from the public in the flood-affected area to move out.
“They are refusing to move saying that floods are a usual occurrence that takes place in the Phulbari plains. We are telling them that this is not a conventional flood but a cloudburst which can occur suddenly due to climate change and cause extensive damage”, said the deputy commissioner, who has dispatched both the civil sub divisional officers and BDOs from Dadenggre and Raksamgre to convince the villagers of the need to move out before the arrival of more rain.
“They need to move before nightfall otherwise it will become very difficult if the flood waters rise during the night,” he warned.
A threat to law and order has also arisen as worried villagers in the flood-affected villages have been trying to divert the flood waters to other villages by attempting to open up embankments.
The district administration has warned against such a move which will endanger more lives and senior civil and police officials have been sent to the area to make the villagers see reason.
The legislators from the two areas, Benedict R Marak of Ramsamgre and Jimmyson Sangma of Tikrikilla, have been alerted by the deputy commissioner about the reluctance of the villagers to move out.
“Both the MLAs are already on their way to their respective areas to speak to their constituents,” confirmed Singh.
On September 24, 2014, a cloudburst over Garo Hills caused widespread destruction as houses with people were washed away and several others were buried alive after a portion of a hill came down in Kharkutta region.
Over 31 people lost their lives in the initial impact of the floods in Garo Hills while nine others died in Shillong in a landslide.
The final figure of deaths given out by the government stood at 59 with five others missing. It was the worst ever natural calamity of Garo Hills with portions of national highway 51, the main road connecting the state with Garo Hills, caving in or sliding away from hillsides under the impact.
Most of the deaths took place in North Garo Hills district which bore the brunt of the floods with Kharkutta region alone reporting 17 casualties due to landslides.