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Huts washed away by raging Padma

Akhirgunj (Murshidabad), July 29: Eleven huts and a 150-metre stretch of embankment were swept away in an hour by the Padma yesterday morning.

Every downpour now makes villagers of Alahpur, about 250 km from Calcutta, fear for their lives. Those living in the washed-away huts have taken shelter under plastic sheets on a road near the Bangladesh border.

District magistrate Manoj Panth has sought a report from the subdivisional officer of Lalbagh. “About 100 metres of embankment-strengthening work done in 1999 was swept away by the river. We are despatching tarpaulin sheets, drinking water and dry food to those displaced…” Panth said.

He added that irrigation department engineers have been asked to visit the spot, assess the damage and try to curb the erosion.

“We will hold a review meeting tomorrow to find a solution. But as the Padma is flowing at a very high level it is not possible to do anything right now,” Panth said.

Kalpana Bibi sat by the roadside holding her baby. “Last morning, my husband was working in the fields when the river came rushing in and before I could salvage some clothes and utensils, the river swallowed our home,” she cried.

The water also plunged 10 villages into darkness after electricity poles were swept away. Electricity board workers had dismantled the cables and taken away the rest of the poles from the area, the villagers said.

A local youth, Mansoor Ali, said boulders brought to the area were lying unused.

“We asked the engineers to plug the weak areas in the embankment, but they did nothing. As a result, with more soil being washed out from the river bank, the Shibnagar market is in danger of being swept away…” Mansoor said. In the last 10 years, the river has eroded a 15 km-wide swathe of land.

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