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India Blames Flash Floods on Chinese Dam

[Agence France Presse, July 11, 2000.]

ITANAGAR, Jul 11, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Floods from a Chinese dam in Tibet wreaked havoc in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, claiming 30 lives and leaving more than 100 missing, officials said Monday.

Images taken by a Canadian satellite used by India's National Remote Sensing Agency (NSRA) revealed that flash floods hit Arunachal Pradesh two weeks ago after a Chinese dam on the Tsangpo river was breached, an NSRA official told AFP.

"Preliminary findings suggest the floods in Arunachal Pradesh were due to the breach of a dam on the Tsangpo, as the river makes a turn to enter India," the official said, requesting anonymity.

He said the dam was located in Tibet, near the Namtche Barwa Mountain, and the cause of the floods might be "water mismanagement".

"The final report is expected in a couple of days time," he said.

The Canadian satellite was used by the NRSA as Indian satellites were unable to capture images through the prevailing cloud cover.

The Tsangpo river, which originates in Tibet, flows into India and is called Siang in Arunachal Pradesh before it becomes the Brahmaputra.

The Arunachal Pradesh government has urged the Indian Prime Minister and home minister to take up the matter with their Chinese counterparts.

"We strongly believe there could be artificial reasons for the river Siang to flood the hills, State Minister of Information and Public Relations Takam Sanjay told AFP.

"The source of the Siang river is in China and we want the Indian government to get detailed information and investigate the matter in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts," he said.

"Floods of this magnitude were never ever recorded in our history," he added.

More than 50,000 people in five districts of Arunachal Pradesh were left homeless by the floods in the past two weeks, while several parts of the state were still cut off from the rest of the country.

The death toll is estimated at 30.

"More than 20 big bridges, the lifeline for the people, have been washed away by the strong currents. The situation is critical as most of the villagers are taking shelter in temporary camps and huts," said state flood control minister Hari Natung.

The Arunachal Pradesh government had put the estimated loss at more than one billion rupees (22.9 million dollars).

"It will take years for the area hit by the floods to regain its original shape as restoration works will take time due to the inhospitable mountainous terrain," Natung said.

"The central government must come to the aid of the state and provide adequate financial help for relief and rehabilitation works."

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