Lunglei (Mizoram), Aug 16 : Even two months after flash floods caused by heavy rainfall wreaked havoc in many villages at Tlabung here in this district, the local communities are struggling to return to normalcy.
Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh and parts of Northeast India destroying houses and lives in the region between June 13 and 15. Mizoram is one of the worst hit states, suffering from flash floods triggered by heavy rains, especially in the Tlabung subdivision along the Mizoram-Bangladesh border.
While most parts of the main town has been able to recover slightly, it is in the villages located on the banks of the river that the worst effects of the flash flood are still visible.
In Tablabagh village that has a population of about 1,500, the havoc is unprecedented and the relief is much too little. Most houses were submerged during the three days and while some survived after the flood, many have been washed away. Some families, like that of daily wager Swana Chakma, are still living with their relatives and have not been able to reconstruct their houses.
"We are a family of three. When the water started rising around midnight, we had no idea that it was going to cover the entire village by the next day. Somehow we escaped with some of our belongings but the flood took our house along with it. I have not been able to return to work," Chakma told this visiting IANS correspondent.
The scenario is replicated in another village, Serhuan, which is located across the river from Tlabung. The entire village was submerged during the flash floods and the villagers moved uphill and took refuge in temporary tents. When the floodwaters receded, most houses remained intact but quite a few were washed away.
The major problem in the region is that the houses are located right next to the river bank and even slight increase in the water level is a threat to them. But why do they live so close to the river?
"Because the land is very fertile and the river is the only mode of transport. They fear that If they stay uphill, people from across the border may steal their crops and also there will be nothing that they can do in case of an emergency because there is no motorable road. The river is everything," said Judu Ranjan Chakma, the president of the Young Chakma Association (YCA).
The YCA and Young mizo Association (YMA) were the two local NGOs which were the first responders to the flood. Along with the BSF personnel, their volunteers evacuated people and helped them move to safer locations.
It took almost 15 days for World Vision India, a Christian grassroots humanitarian organisation, to find sponsors and provide material like rice, dal, oil, salt, sanitary pads and silpaulin (a special type of tarpaulin) to those affected by the flood. The NGO reached out to a total of 833 families, across nine villages, and directly covered 3,536 family members, of whom 44 per cent were below 18.
The NGO delivered relief material to the villages within 30 days of the flood but this level of assistance does not seem enough in what is being widely seen as the worst floods in the area in the last 50 years.
"While it may take time for the communities to fully recover from the impact, but with collaboration of the community members along with the local government they will be able to rebuild their lives. With our experience in Human Emergency Response, World Vision India plans to provide support to all stakeholders in rebuilding and recovering from the impact," Kunal Kumar Shah, Director - Disaster Management, World Vision India, told IANS.
Many houses have been completely destroyed, agricultural crops washed away and the local communities are thus expecting significant help from the Rs 2,000 crore (more than $310 million) package announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the entire northeast for mitigating the impact of floods on a short- and long-term basis.
This package, announced on August 1, along with another package of Rs 300 crore that was announced in June, is still to reach the affected people.
(Saket Suman was in Mizoram at the invitation of World Vision India. He can be contacted at email@example.com)