The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Malda a whisker away from deluge of ’98

Malda, Sept. 14: As the Ganga swelled to an alarming 25.95 m and news of the Padma breaking its banks in Kaliachak block trickled in, memories of the 1998 floods came back to haunt the residents of Malda.

The level at which the Ganga was flowing this evening was a centimetre short of 26.53 m, the mark it touched in 1998. The water is flowing 65 cm above the extreme danger level.

“At Panchanandapur, the Ganga has broken up into three major streams. One is flowing across Rajmahal in Jharkhand, the other through the middle and the most mighty is rushing past Panchanandapur. It is this stream which is carrying more than 75 per cent of the water,” said Pundarikaksha Roy, the executive engineer of the irrigation department.

Roy said the stream was carrying almost 16 to 17 lakh cusecs. “That is what is worrying us since 3 km of the embankment has been washed away. The water is cutting in at a rapid a rate.”

An alarmed irrigation department has sent its crew to plug the gaps in the embankment at Sukurullapur. It is a last-ditch effort to prevent a disaster.

“We are trying to ensure that the surging water does not enter the area. But unless the water level of the river subsides in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, we are in for more trouble,” Roy said.

Malda and its adjoining areas received heavy spells of rain throughout the day.

To worsen the situation, the Padma that flows across India’s border with Bangladesh, has flooded four panchayat areas in Kaliachak-III block in the past 24 hours. The area was cut off from this town after a one-kilometre stretch of a metalled road went under. The administration has not been able to reach any relief material to these villages.

In adjacent Manikchak, rumours are swirling that 200 people living on Duanichar, a sandbank, have vanished without a trace. Villagers had yesterday reported the news to relief minister Hafiz Alam Sairani, who has asked the block development officer to search for them.

District magistrate Ashok Bala offered a glimmer of hope, saying the water level would probably start receding from Tuesday.

He said organisations like the Ramakrishna Mission, Rotary Club and the Merchants’ Chamber were supplying cooked food and milk to stranded children. A team from the railway hospital is also attending to the flood-affected at Panchanandapur.

Sairani, who, along with minister of state for civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee, visited the flood-affected areas of Malda, said: “The Centre should intervene to help us get over the crisis.”

Unless a master plan is prepared with assistance from the Centre, the steady erosion of the Ganga in Malda cannot be checked.” Sairani will submit a report to Bhattacharjee tomorrow on the measures taken so far by the administration to control the flood.

“Though the Ganga is flowing much above the danger level today, we expect the situation to improve by tomorrow. The water will start receding provided there is no more rain,” the minister said.

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