Incessant rains began at the end of the first week of July 2019 in several parts of Meghalaya and refused to relent for the next seven days. It was only a matter of time before the rivers, Brahmaputra and Jinjiram crossed the safe water mark. The fury of nature kept up and by Monday, 15 July, over one lakh people had been affected by the floods.
Government officials had started getting their departments ready for the disaster. And one among them is IAS officer Ram Singh, the Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills, Tura, Meghalaya. Besides the relief camps and arrangement of ration, Singh has also been going from village to village and looking after the well-being of those affected by the floods.
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Giving us an insight into how the officials readied themselves for the high-rising water, Singh tells The Better India (TBI), “It has been raining heavily since 8 July. There are heavily populated plain areas in Meghalaya bordering Assam and Bangladesh which are also flood plains for streams and rivers which receives heavy rainfall during this season.
“These plains occasionally get backflow of water from Brahmaputra river whenever it flows above the danger mark.”
After the progressive flooding of Upper Assam, the officials started monitoring flood level warnings.
I took a boat ride of the river in plain areas a few days before the advancement of flood and started issuing warnings. We started preparing our relief camps, boats, rescue teams etc. The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) was called two days before the floods which helped to evacuate people well in advance. We declared floods on 14 July by which time the floods had inundated nearly 150 villages, he adds.
Fortunately, until then there was no loss of life but with 1.14 lakh people vulnerable to the effects of the floods, great responsibility lay in the hands of the officials.
IAS Ram Singh and other members of the government staff had to act, and act quickly.
Along with the safety of human lives, the DC had to also ensure the same for the animals.
Considering the fact that the district is primarily a rural area, it would have been very difficult for the officials to convince the people to leave everything behind and rush to the safety of the relief camps.
“Apart from the early warnings and preventive action which saved human lives and livestock, we made arrangements of designated relief camps despite the fact that the majority of the people refused to shift and put up their base on the drier patches of roads and embankments near their villages,” the IAS officer explains and goes on to say that once the people realised that the warnings were serious and that everything from food to medical check-ups is taken care of at the camps, the villagers gathered their vital belongings and sought shelter at the official arrangements.
Singh himself has been visiting the flood-affected villages, monitoring the situation, checking the water for potability and also discussing contingency plans with the residents so that they could understand the best options for a safe shelter.
Speaking about the arrangements at these shelters, Singh tells TBI, “We are providing them rations, baby food, water, tarpaulins, essential supplies, and also taking care of hygiene, sanitation and health issues.”
Helping the DC are the three Development Blocks headed by BDOs, police, SDRF and relief staff from District Head Quarters and Subdivision and numerous other departments like Health, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and Water Supply Department.
“There are a few non-governmental organisations too which are working there,” he informed and added that the impact so far has been very positive. Over one lakh Meghalaya citizens were staying in relief camps since about a week but as the water is receding, some have chosen to go back to their villages.
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As of 21 July, three people were reported dead due to the floods but the officials are taking every precaution possible to ensure that the thousands who are still affected by the floods stay safe.
Appealing to our readers to aid Meghalaya in such a time of distress, the IAS officer says, “There is a lot of work yet to be done in terms of Post Disaster trauma which many first-time survivors will face. Most of the villagers are poor and have lost their belongings, and clothes, for which we have made appeals for people to donate in cash or kind. We appeal to anyone reading this, people have lost their homes, and schools have been flooded, help the victims of these floods by donating to Meghalaya Chief Ministers Relief Funds or sending any clothes, bed sheets, sanitary pads, soaps, books, and stationery for flood victims.”
Meghalaya Chief Minister’s Relief Fund:
A/C No: 38617186405
Bank: State Bank of India
Branch: Meghalaya Sectt.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)