By Zarir Hussain (AFP) – Sep 24, 2012
GUWAHATI, India — Floods have forced nearly 1.5 million people to flee their homes in northeastern India where authorities have declared a health alert, officials said on Monday.
"Eighteen of 27 districts of Assam have been hit by floods with 1.4 million displaced and 11 people drowned in separated incidents in the past week," the Disaster Management agency said in a statement.
The floods, caused by relentless rains, marked the second round of massive flooding in two months to hit India's impoverished northeast and come towards the end of India's June-to-September monsoon season.
Nearly 130 people died and six million were displaced by floods in Assam state in July.
Rescue officials said in the latest floods, at least 2,200 villages had been swamped by overflowing waters from the rain-swollen Brahmaputra River.
Himanta Biswa Sarmah, the health minister of Assam state, told AFP that a "maximum health alert" to avert outbreaks of diarrhea or diseases such as typhoid had been declared in the devastated zone.
The annual monsoon provides vital irrigation for India's farmers but also claims many casualties from flooding and landslides.
Officials said flooding victims had been evacuated to temporary shelters on higher ground.
"We've dispatched doctors and paramedics to ensure there is no outbreak of disease," Sarmah said in Guwahati, Assam's largest city.
Victims and an opposition party staged protests in flood-hit areas against what they said were shortages of emergency supplies in the Congress-ruled state.
"The government has failed to provide adequate relief supplies including food and medicines," said Sarbananda Sonowal, a local leader of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. "In many parts of the state people are even living without food," he added.
Rehab India Foundation, a voluntary group said heavy rains disrupted its plans to supply food and other essential items to flood-hit people.
Almost the entire 420 square kilometres (162 square miles) of Kaziranga National Park was also flooded, the Press Trust of India reported.
The wildlife park is home to the world's single largest population of one-horned rhinos. A 2012 census in Kaziranga counted 2,290 of the rhinos, out of a global population of 3,300.
The species declined to near extinction in the early 1990s and is listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers, who kill the animals for their horns that fetch huge prices in some Asian countries where they are deemed to be an aphrodisiac.
In neighbouring Pakistan, flash floods triggered by record rains have affected around 700,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of crops in the south-west of the country, officials said.
At least 51 people have died across the impoverished province of Baluchistan and Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf on Sunday declared three districts as calamity-hit areas.
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