A popular radio artist, knee deep in water in his living room, strumming his guitar and singing an Assamese tune about the Brahmaputra’s “mad floods”, has captured the imagination of many on the internet. The video was shot last weekend in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh as water from the Brahmaputra spilled into the city after days of relentless rain, flooding streets and shops and homes and offices.
A mad flood had submerged the tea town.
Dibrugarh town is no stranger to floods, thanks to its peculiar low-lying location on the south bank of the river. Yet, residents say they had seldom seen a deluge as bad as this year. Many of the city’s arterial roads were waterlogged entirely or in parts for nearly five days until Sunday evening. As the roads became unmotorable, out came the fishing boats that usually lurk around on the banks.
The situation, residents said, was even worse in the countryside. “This is perhaps the worst flood in years,” said Neepjyoti Gogoi, a businessman. Over the weekend, the courtyard at Gogoi’s home was filled with almost knee-deep water. “Fortunately, it did not enter the house,” said Gogoi.
But Bikash Singh Shahi, a lawyer in the city, was not so lucky. “Water from the road gushed into our home,” he said.
There was no escape either. As living rooms filled with water, the town went into a lockdown to contain another problem: the coronavirus.
Starting last week, Assam is enforcing an indefinite “weekend lockdown” – applicable on Saturdays and Sundays – for town and municipal committees across the state (except Guwahati which is currently in the middle of complete lockdown).
All of this as a particularly harsh wave of floods sweeps through the state. According to the state disaster management authority, more than lakh people are currently affected across 2,000 villages in 22 districts. Over 18,000 of them are in relief camps. Thousands more are likely to be in their own makeshift tarpaulin tents on higher land.
At least 24 people have already drowned to death. Another 23, according to government records, have been crushed dead by landslides triggered by the torrential rains.
Meanwhile, Monday brought in the sun at Dibrugarh, the largest urban centre affected by the current wave of floods. The water is starting to evaporate and after days of being marooned in their homes, people are back in large numbers on the roads. But now, there is another worry. “There is a frenzy of people on the streets today and social distancing has gone for a toss,” said Kasutabh Deka, who teaches in Dibrugarh University. “Just hope that doesn’t bring fresh trouble for the city.”