ITANAGAR: The Indian Air Force (IAF) today evacuated 19 of the 24 people, including children, who were left stranded on an island on the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang district.

The East Siang district administration had issued an advisory on Wednesday cautioning people living along the low-lying areas to refrain from venturing into the tributary of the Brahmaputra for fishing, swimming, and other activities. The advisory was issued after receiving a report from the Chinese government to the Indian government that water levels in the Tsangpo river in China had risen following heavy rainfall. There were reports of water discharge of 9020 cumecs at various GD (gauge and discharge) stations on the Tsangpo.

The river enters India after flowing through the Tibetan plateau as Yarlung Tsangpo. It flows through Arunachal Pradesh for about 230 km to reach Pasighat and then joins the Lohit and the Dibang to form the Brahmaputra River in Assam.

Alerts had been sounded in parts of Assam as well.

Yesterday, it came to light that 24 people, mostly cattle-herders, from Jonai in Assam’s Dhemaji district were stranded on an island in the Siang river in Jampani under Sille-Oyan administrative circle of the district.

After seeking the help of the IAF, rescue operations were conducted from around 4.45 AM to 6.00 AM.

East Siang deputy commissioner Tamiyo Tatak informed that IAF personnel flew in from Mohanbari in Assam and rescued 19 people stranded in the island. However, five of them refused to be evacuated from the island who “preferred to look after the cattle on the island”.

While the cattle sheds are reported to have been submerged, Tatak said that the five who refused to leave are safe.

Chinese authorities had earlier suspended sharing hydrological information and only resumed after talks between the two countries in March this year. Around October last year, the waters of the Siang had turned murky and it was long-suspected that Chinese dam-building activities were the reason. Chinese authorities, however, had denied any role, claiming that a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Tibet in mid-November had led to the turbidity.

(Photo by Maksam Tayeng)