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Sat, 24 Aug 2019

Northeast Today

Escape from death: A tale of 11th June 2000, escape from deathly Siang River flash flood

Escape from death: A tale of 11th June 2000, escape from deathly Siang River flash flood
June 13
11:23 2019

|Maksam Tayeng|

PASIGHAT, Jun 12: As the date of 11th June touched the calendar every year, the unfateful incident of a major Chinese flood of the Year 2000 brings the sorrows and agonies of those days of hanging between the mouth of death and life, recalls Ogong Yirang, a survivor of Siang River flood of 11th June 2000 which had shook the entire Siang and Brahmaputra valley which had affected entire topography of the region.

Ogong Yirang, now around 53 years, was a Lower Divisional Clerk under PHE & WS Division, Pasighat then who along with his friend and uncle late Tarin Tabing, driver of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) had went for fishing to an island of Siang River in the early morning of June 11 in the year of 2000, some 19 years ago. After crossing Siang river from Komlighat in a country boat to the island across present Komlighat (the then ferry ghat) located in between Pasighat and Mebo circle, Yirang recalls that, both Ogong Yirang and late Taring Tabing were fishing. Yirang recalls that, it was a sunny day and both of them used country made small boat to reach that Island. They had also observed that water level of Siang River were normal like ever before and the island across Komlighat where they reached was an ideal place for fishing.

As per verbal recounting of the entire story today after passing of 19 years after the incident, Yirang narrates that, they reached at island around 7:30 a.m. and started fishing towards the Mebo side, while fishing they suddenly felt that the water level rose rapidly upto their thigh height. Even though they didn’t take it seriously and went on fishing. After some time around half an hour later both of them were shocked to see the water level of Pasighat side over flooded and it was by then appeared unnatural flow of river which they hadn’t seen it before.


Then they felt that the danger is approaching to them and they tried to find out some safety place. They couldn’t find any place but only the high tension electrical tower which were located in the middle of that island. Both of them climbed on that electric pole out of sudden shock and grief. As the water level rose more they also climbed up and up. When they realized that they were near to the peak point of the pole then they realized that it was an electric power supply cable and they could be electrocuted. Feeling nervous and shocked seeing the never seen before kind of massive flood, they couldn’t think and decide where to go, but after deciding for some time they thought whatever may be, they should climbed up hoping there were not electric current on the high tension wire and so they caught the cable to save themselves (fortunately there were no current on the wire as the Hydel of Yembung was also destroyed by the initial flood that morning).

The people of both sides of riverbanks (especially Komlighat in Pasighat side) witnessed all these incidents. Witnessing the situation under distress, eight SOS messages were also sent to the Chief Secretary through East Siang Dy. Commissioner. But unfortunately, the Swearing-in-ceremony of Rtd. Lt. Gen. S.K Sinha was going on as a Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. So the rescue helicopter could not reach Pasighat on time.IMG_20190610_194134

The entire tragic incidents were going on for more than two hours and the people from Komlighat witnessed them while they were fighting for their survivals were a big timber log hit their tower and as a result both of them were washed away in the flow of flood current. As per story narration of Ogong Yirang, they had talked for last while felling down in the river flood after high tension electric pole was hit down by a huge log floating along the river. They shared last view and chatted for a while if any one of them had ever saw such incident even in their dream, but none of them saw such and both shouted each other to hold tight of the electric pole.

But then as luck would have it, a huge timber log hit their cable and both of them were washed away and there Yirang saw late Taring Tabing for last time that his hand flapped for some time and he was drawn in the flood water. However, Yirang kept on struggling for survival in waves and tides. His constant struggle and presence of mind helps him to save his life. Some of his narration about how he struggled from death qwas noted by me and as follows.

Floating on floodwater, he saw a small piece of wood/log flowing just besides him, he quickly jumped over it and there he went on floating in a very danger point from where River Siang get diversion into two big tributaries. With full strength he rowed with the hands to divert the log in a proper direction so that he may be saved. While floating he saw from distant an island, gathering some courage he again used his last strength by using his both hands to row some how to reach that island and he managed to reach the island. Meanwhile, one deer was als floated down at the same spot. Both of them were helpless and struggling for a life, so they only stared at each other without harming and disturbing.

All these struggled took place for the whole day and Yirang felt deadly tired and wanted shelter for the night then he looked around and his eyes struck upon a big tree. He climbed up and spent for one nights and a day. After staying there for one day and one night, his stomachaches from hungry, so he climbed down to find some edible stuff. Nothing was there to eat, and then he spotted a Jackfruits tree that was lying there which was carried down by flooding river. He thought that if fruits can be eaten then why not the leaves, so he ate the new leaves and could somehow filled his stomach after which he climbed back to the tree.

Hours after, he heard a sound of helicopter then he quickly climbed to the peak of the tree and took off his shirt and swung and waved. He also shouted for many times that I am alive, rescue me (Bachao). But the helicopter flew off without noticing him and he thought, may be because of the colour of his shirt they couldn’t notice him. So, he stayed back there in the tree till evening.

In the evening flood slowed down somehow but he was not in a position to cross the river carrying his own body as he was completely exhausted by then. However, by the grace of god he could see from the tree, the shadow of two heads crossing the river which was very far away. Gathering his last energy, he yelled out very loudly, ‘’I am alive’’. Luckily the echo of his voice was heard by one of that rescue team man. Then he managed to cross one of the river and was very happy to see and found that the person was no other his own maternal uncle. Actually everyone had thought him to be dead and people were searching for his dead body, so they took him to home. At home, his own wife was also reluctant to believe her husband was really alive.

When people saw Yirang  to be alive after nearly escaping from dead everyone praised him of his bravery, presence  of mind and good luck besides his knowledge of swimming. But Yirang’s companion late Tarin Tabing couldn’t be lucky like him and he died in the massive flood leaving behind his wife and children.

While narrating this painful story on the day of 11th June, the day of that unfateful incident, Yirang also showed us an old T-Shirt which he wore that day. While pointing at a part of the shirt which was torn out for wrapping on his one of ring finger when his finger was damaged due to hanging on electric cable wire just before the electric pole was hit down by a log, Yirang recounted that, he had never ever imagined for such a horrifying day.

While concluding his narration of the heart shaking incident, Yirang urged and suggested for emphasizing on educating students of co-curricular activities like swimming apart from sports, dancing etc in the schools as such knowledge will not only give benefits for job but will be helpful in saving their own life in case of such unfortunate incident. His swimming skill since childhood as he lived along the bank of Siang River helped him to save his life.



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