For Assam flood victims, Railways brings ray of hope
For thousands of flood-affected people in South Assam, train coaches have become their lifesaving shelter. The Railways have always worked to rehabilitate the lakhs displaced every year during monsoon, but this time, the situation was so grim that they had to bring out coaches to provide them shelter. The department had been preparing for such measures since before the rains started, officials said.
Lakhs displaced in Assam every year due to floods
Parts of Assam have been reeling under deluge since weeks. The worst affected districts are Cachar, Dima Hasao, Hailakandi, Karbi Anglong and Karimganj. Some 500 relief camps have been set up, which are housing more than 1.5L displaced people. "While the Lumding-Badarpur hill section was affected by landslides, the Badarpur-Silchar area was flooded by local rivers," said Pranav Jyoti Sharma, Chief PRO, NFR.
NFR steps in with temporary shelter and basic aid
Enter Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), which was keeping a close watch. "The moment the Barak river hit 21m, we started evacuating people," said S. Umesh, Area Officer, Badarpur, NFR. It had set up tents at several stations in the region, including Katakhal, Algapur and Salchapra. At Silchar, 15 coaches have been placed. Currently, these places are housing more than 1,500 people.
But what about railway operations?
Though floods wreak havoc in the region every year, this was the first time NFR had to bring out coaches to accommodate people, Sharma said. But this hadn't hit Railway's own operations: these coaches were already in hibernation due to disruption of railway connectivity due to floods. "They have not been withdrawn from any other regular service," he added.
Though waters receding, stranded people have to repair homes now
It will take time for the people to move back into their homes as most are in need of extensive repairs after the flood damage, Umesh said. But till then, NFR teams are catering to basic needs of the stranded, which includes three-month-old babies too. In areas that don't have drinking water, they have distributed 20,000L of water already.
NFR, which started preparing beforehand, now remains on high alert
Apparently, the department had been planning this since long. Before rains started, NFR strategically placed 184 wagonloads of boulders, called 'Monsoon Reserve Stock,' across different zones. They are rolled out "at the slightest hint of danger like abnormal rise of water level etc." These have helped them in quick restoration of damaged-sections, officials said. NFR has replenished the stocks and remains on high alert.