Army jawans watch as water gushes past sandbags in Panskura. (Jahangir Badsa)
Oct. 27: Heavy rain since Friday and discharge of water from the Kangshabati barrage in Bankura’s Mukutmanipur have caused a breach in the embankment of the Kangshabati river for the third time in three months, leading to floods in East and West Midnapore.
While 50 villages in East Midnapore’s Panskura have been flooded, 25 villages in West Midnapore’s Daspur and Keshpur have been inundated.
The embankment in Panskura’s Ranihati gave way barely 10 days after the army repaired a 50-metre breach in the area.
Irrigation officials said the level of the Kangshabati started to rise early yesterday.
“We informed irrigation department officials in Calcutta. Yesterday, a team of officials reached Panskura and about 500 labourers were engaged to put layers of sandbags on the stretch the army had repaired,” a district irrigation official said.
Around 3am today, the base of the embankment could not bear the load of the sandbags and gave way, causing a 30-metre breach in Ranihati.
“The embankment was constructed over 50 years ago. The army had made temporary repairs and the irrigation department had planned to strengthen the embankment soon. But the department had not anticipated the sudden heavy rain,” the irrigation official said.
“Around 7am today, the sandbags were washed away by the swollen river. Water gushed in, flooding villages for the third time in three months,” the official added.
The embankment had given way for the first time this monsoon on August 23 because of heavy rain. It had been repaired by district irrigation officials, but it again broke on October 15.
The next day, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed her displeasure at an administrative meeting in Kolaghat and sought to know how the breach happened within a month of repairs. A few days later, three engineers were suspended.
Irrigation secretary T.K. Ghosh, who rushed to Panskura after today’s breach, said: “Army personnel have been called in to repair the breach. Work started this afternoon.”
The district irrigation official said 1,000 labourers were helping the army team.
Residents of several villages in Panskura who had returned home a few days ago after being displaced by the floods caused by post-Phailin rain said they were feeling helpless as they would have to shift to flood shelters again.
Irrigation minister Rajiv Banerjee visited Panskura this evening and held a meeting with senior district officials about the repair of the embankment. District officials said at least 25,000 villagers in Panskura had been affected. Fifty flood shelters have been set up in school buildings.
In West Midnapore, over 30,000 residents in Daspur and Keshpur have once again been marooned because of the floods. “We have been ruined by floods for the third time this year. But the authorities are not repairing the feeble embankments properly,” said Mihir Bera, a farmer in Keshpur.
Kangshabati embankments in Keshpur and Daspur have been breached.
The block development officer of Daspur, Reshmi Sarkar, said: “We are not getting the opportunity to repair the embankments because of successive floods.”