At least 84 people and nine rare rhinos have been killed in flooding in the northeastern state, officials say.
Intense rain and floods in the Indian state of Assam have killed at least 84 people and displaced more than 2.75 million since May. Authorities have been trying to collect the bodies of nine rare rhinos drowned in the past 10 days.
Officials said on Monday the rescue teams were facing a double challenge of rising floodwaters amid the novel coronavirus as villagers driven from their homes huddle in shelters.
"It’s hard to enforce social distancing when people are being ordered to move away from the rising waters," said Sanghamitra Sanyal, a member of the northeastern state’s flood management force.
"We’re urging people to at least cover their mouth and nose with a piece of clean cloth."
Brahmaputra water rising
Officials warned that the water level in the Brahmaputra river was expected to rise by 11 cm, two weeks after it burst its banks swamping more than 2,500 villages.
The Brahmaputra river, which flows through Tibet, India and Bangladesh, burst its banks in Assam late last month, inundating large swathes of the state and triggering mudslides.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, over a million people are marooned or have left their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings.
With Ministers Shri @ATULBORA2, Shri @keshab_mahanta & MP Shri @KamakhyaTasa, visited Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (#CWRC) at Borjuri village near #KazirangaNationalPark and took stock of flood situation and conditions of animals in the park. pic.twitter.com/a4A3comxCt— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) July 16, 2020
Floods have also inundated the Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros, with an estimated 2,500 out of a total population of some 3,000 of the animals.
"Nine rhinos have drowned and over 100 other animals have been killed,” Atul Bora, Assam's agriculture minister who is also Kaziranga's member of the state parliament, told Reuters news agency.
With the park waist-deep in water, rhinos, elephants and deer have been forced to seek refuge on roads and in human settlements.