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TURA: A cloud burst over Raksamgre and Tikrikilla region, in the northern plains of West Garo Hills, has caused extensive flooding and damage inundating four villages and washing away roads and bridges early Sunday morning.
This sudden weather pattern has 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, suddenly 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 cloud burst 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 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 cloud burst caused the flood waters to rise over six feet in many areas inundating the entire Raksamgre market including a COVID-19 Quarantine centre at the 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 test results of the RT-PCR 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 floods occurred,” said Ram Singh.
He warned that the threat remains for more flooding as the weather forecast predicts another spell of heavy rainfall for the next three days and orders have been issued to move villagers 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.
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 historically they never experienced floods which is a usual factor that takes place in the Phulbari plains. We are telling them that this is not a conventional flood but a cloud burst 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 rains.
“They need to move before nightfall otherwise it will become a very difficult situation if the flood waters rise during the night,” warned the deputy commissioner.
A threat to law and order has also risen 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 Ram Singh.
It is worth mentioning that cloud bursts play havoc where ever it takes place andthe most infamous tragedy that unfolded in the country was on June 2013 when a multi-day cloud burst centered on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides becoming the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 Tsunami.
The reason the floods occurred was because the rainfall received was on a larger scale than the regular rainfall causing debris to block up the rivers. More than 5700 people lost their lives in the Uttarakhand floods, that year.
One year later, Garo Hills experienced its worst natural disaster in living history.
On September 24 2014, a cloudburst over Garo Hills caused widespread destruction as houses with people got 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 death given out by the government stood at 59 with five others missing. It was the worst ever natural calamity of the Garo Hills with portions of national highway 51, the main road link connecting the state with Garo Hills, getting caved in or sliding away from hill sides due to the impact of the cloud burst.
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.