|(From top)Sea waves lash the Digha coast on Friday; water crashes past the broken embankments. Pictures by Jahangir Badsa
Tamluk, Oct. 8: Incessant rain and high tide with 8-metre-tall waves have flooded over 100 coastal villages in East Midnapore as well as Digha, affecting nearly 10,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.
Over 500 mud huts have collapsed since last night, rendering over 2,000 people homeless. The villagers have been shifted to relief camps set up by panchayats in Shankarpur, Deshpran, Tajpur, Khejuri and Kendamari in Nandigram. The Hooghly flows into the Bay of Bengal near Khejuri and Kendamari.
District relief officer Sandip Nag said Digha had received 53mm of rain between 10am yesterday and 10am today.
Met officials said the depression was heading towards the Bangladesh coast around 11.30am today. “The winds made the sea turbulent,” a Met official said.
The officials said fishermen had been asked not to venture into the high seas. Normally, during high tides, sea waves rise to around 4 metres in Digha, they added.
Irrigation department officials said the defences along 50km of East Midnapore’s 78km coastline had been lying unrepaired for over five years. A 4km-long breach had occurred at Shankarpur two years ago but it was yet to be plugged, the officials said.
“As a result, the sea easily flooded the villages. Ten villages, including Shankarpur, Tajpur, Chandpur, Lachhimpur, Jamra-Shyampur, Jalda and Shaula, are the worst affected,” said Swapan Pandit, an executive engineer of the irrigation department.
Ratikanta Jana, 50, a fisherman from the coastal village of Tajpur, about 10km from Digha, said the sea began to swell around 8pm yesterday.
“There was chest-deep water in most parts of the village by 11pm yesterday. The winds were so strong that my hut collapsed in front of my eyes. This morning, we took shelter at a relief camp set up at a primary school in our village,” Ratikanta said. “Around 500 people from our village and neighbouring areas have taken shelter at the camp.”
Digha police patrolled the coast through the day and requested tourists not to go near the water. “Eight tourists suffered minor injuries after the waves dashed them against boulders,” said Kaushik Basak, the officer in charge of Digha police station.
In Digha town, eight-metre-high sea waves last night washed away 30 shops that sold cashew nuts and artefacts made from sea shells. Some eateries and garment stores were also washed away.
“We tried our best to save our wares but lost most of it,” Netai Jana, 35, a shop owner said.
Yesterday, there were around 5,000 tourists in Digha. Today being a weekend, the tourist count crossed 8,000. Many tourists came to the beach to catch a glimpse of the crashing waves.
A senior district health official said a team of doctors would be sent to the relief camps.
The sabhadhipati of the Trinamul Congress-run zilla parishad, Ranajit Mondal, said crops had been damaged across 10,000 hectares.