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20ft waves swamp seaside hotels

Tamluk, Sept. 17: A depression in the Bay of Bengal led to a massive water surge in the tourist spots of Digha, Shankarpur and Mandarmani, flooding at least 50 hotels and washing away hundreds of shanty shops along the coast.

Some of the waves, 15 to 20 feet high, crashed on the marine drive along the Digha coast, flooding areas up to half a kilometre inland.

“We haven’t seen such a surge in a long time. Local people are scared,” said Shyamal Mondal, chief executive officer of the Digha-Shankarpur Development Authority.

At least 500 shops that sell gift items, seashells, mats, clothes and food were washed away. “I was removing the bed covers and carpets from my shop when the waves came. Several were gobbled up by the sea,” said Raju Singh.

East Midnapore officials said fisherman Tapan Bhunia, 25, was killed when he fell off his trawler at the Shankarpur harbour.

About 200 fishermen on 15 trawlers are missing. “We are trying to contact them over wireless,” said fisheries department assistant director Jagannath Jhariat.

Police had a tough time controlling tourists who flocked to the beach for a closer look at the waves. “We continuously warned them and sometimes chased them away,” an officer said.

The Met office said the depression hit the Orissa coast late last night and moved inland. “The weather in the coastal regions will improve.”

In the Sunderbans, Sagar Island, Namkhana and Patharpratima blocks were affected. The Matla spilled its banks, leaving 405 families homeless. Parts of North 24-Parganas were flooded as well.

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