Custom Search

Friday, June 29, 2012

In search of higher ground: Wildlife tries to keep dry as raging waters in India overwhelm 2,000 villages

By Leon Watson

Wild elephants and rhinos are among the animals searching for higher ground after raging torrents overwhelmed more than 2,000 villages in northeast India.

The floodwater fed by monsoon rains has swept away homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of people marooned today.

At least 27 people were killed, but the toll was expected to rise.

Wild animals reach highlands in Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary due to large floods, around 150 miles east of Gauhati, India

The Indian air force was delivering food packages to people huddled on patches of dry land along with cattle and wild elephants.

Rescuers were dropped by helicopter into affected areas to help the stranded, but pouring rain was complicating operations.

About one million people have had to evacuate their homes as the floods from the swollen Brahmaputra River – one of Asia's largest – swamped 2,084 villages across most of Assam state, officials said.

Assam's flooded capital of Gauhati was hit by mudslides that buried three people. Many of the city's two million residents were negotiating the submerged streets in rubber dinghies and small wooden boats. Most businesses were closed.

Officials have counted 27 people dead so far, but the toll is expected to be much higher as unconfirmed casualty reports mount. Many of the victims so far have drowned, including five people whose boat capsized amid choppy waves.

Telephone lines were knocked out and some train services were canceled after their tracks were swamped by mud.

Seeking higher ground: A rhinoceros stands in the flood water at Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary

Young Indian girls wade through flood waters at Burhaburhi village about 40 miles east of Guahati, India

Flooded: A group of wild animals reach the safety of high land in Kaziranga

As the floods soaked the Kaziranga game reserve east of Gauhati, motorists reported seeing a one-horned rhino fleeing along a busy highway.

'We never thought the situation would turn this grim when the monsoon-fed rivers swelled a week ago,' said Nilomoni Sen Deka, an Assam government minister.

Residents of Majuli – a 310 square mile island in the middle of the Brahmaputra River – watched helplessly as the swirling, gray waters swallowed 50 villages and swept away their homes.

More than 2,000 villages in northeast India, were inundated with water sweeping away homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of people marooned

A herd of wild elephants find a safe spot above the flood water

Telephone lines were knocked out and some train services were canceled after their tracks were swamped by mud

'We are left with only the clothes we are wearing,' said 60-year-old Puniram Hazarika, one of about 75,000 island residents now camping in makeshift shelters of bamboo sticks and plastic tarps on top of a mud embankment soaked by rain.

Ratna Payeng, who was sheltering with her three small children in the camps, said she was praying for the rains to stop.

'If they don't, our land will become unfit for cultivation and everything will be lost,' Payeng said.

Nearby, a herd of 70 endangered Asiatic elephants, which usually avoid humans, were grouped together, Majuli island wildlife official Atul Das said. 'The jumbos have not caused any harm, but we are keeping a close watch,' he said.

In neighboring Nepal, landslides also triggered by monsoon rains killed at least eight people last night and left two others missing.



Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger