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Train swept off its tracks as deadly floods slam northeast India while much of the country bakes in a heat wave

Emily Jones 4 May 18

By Arshad R. Zargar

/ CBS News

New Delhi — While a huge swathe of India bakes under record-breaking heat, the vast country's northeast is being devastated by floods. Heavy rains started lashing the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh last week, triggering floods and mudslides that have washed away houses, fields of crops and bridges.

So far 11 deaths have been blamed on the flooding, and more than 400,000 people have been displaced as 700 villages have been inundated in Assam alone. At least 200,000 people in Assam's Dima Hasao district were cut off on Wednesday, with all roads and bridges in and out blocked.

INDIA-ASSAM-NAGAON-FLOOD
A woman wades through flood water after heavy downpours in the Kampur area in Nagaon district of India's northeast state of Assam, May 17, 2022. Str/Xinhua/Getty

On Tuesday, authorities sent army troops to help with rescue and relief operations. Air Force helicopters evacuated people from a train that was left stranded on waterlogged tracks at a station.

"People don't have drinking water, there's limited food in stock, all forms of communications have been cut off and we don't have any means of transportation as all the roads have been washed away by floods and landslides," India's prominent 10-year-old climate change activist Licypriya Kangujam, who lives in the Himalayan region, told CBS News. She spoke on the phone Wednesday from the tiny island nation of East Timor, where she was addressing lawmakers on climate change.

The Indian Meteorological Department has forecast "very heavy to extremely heavy" rain in the region for the next three days, which is expected to hamper the relief efforts.

A dramatic video posted on social media, shared by Kangujam and India's Northeast Frontier Railway, shows the moment a mudslide washed away an empty train at Assam's New Halflong station.

My birthplace and entire North East India is facing serious flash floods and landslides for the last 5 days. This is climate emergency. Why media are not talking about this? 😔 pic.twitter.com/AhnmfsBnTp

— Licypriya Kangujam (@LicypriyaK) May 17, 2022

"A real climate emergency"

Flooding is common in northeast India, much of which sits in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. Two years ago, flash floods in Uttarakhand state killed nearly 200 people.

Scientists say the Earth's warming climate is speeding the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting, resulting in frequent floods.

"This is a real climate emergency," Kangujam, India's young climate activist, told CBS News.

Inspired by Greta Thunberg, she began campaigning for environmental action in 2018. The following year she spent a week outside India's parliament, pressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to put a law on the books aimed at curbing climate change. She didn't succeed in that bid, but she addressed a United Nations Climate Change Conference the same year, pushing other world leaders to take immediate action.

"World leaders are just delivering beautiful speeches with no real concrete climate actions yet," she told CBS News. "Empty, false promises will not solve the global climate crisis."

She said rich countries need to do more to fight climate change and accused world leaders of putting their political interests above the environment.

"Losing our planet is not like losing an election," she told CBS News.

First published on May 18, 2022 / 11:35 AM

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