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Monsoon maroons north Bengal
Forecast of heavy rain next 72 hours

Rainfall from 8.30am Monday to 8.30am Tuesday

Aug. 26: Incessant rainfall since yesterday has flooded several areas in Alipurduar district and seven rivers in north Bengal have swollen with the water level near the danger mark.

Heavy rainfall is forecast in the next 72 hours in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpurs, Malda and Alipurduar districts.

A strong and active southwest monsoon has brought 264mm of rain to Hasimara in Alipurduar, and 251mm rain to Banarhat in Jalpaiguri district.

So far, one death — of a child — has been reported from Alipurduar.

Data available with Met department show it has rained 112 per cent more than normal in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts from August 1-20. During the same period, the rainfall has been 86 per cent higher than normal in Darjeeling district.

Hasimara, which has recorded the highest rainfall in 24 hours from 8.30am yesterday, is close to the Basra river and Kalchini near the Gabur Basra. Both are small rivers that have flooded their banks.

The North Bengal Flood Control Commission has sounded yellow and red alerts on both banks of the Teesta, Jaldhaka, Kaljani, Torsha and Raidak, apart from the Basra and the Gabur Basra.

A yellow alert indicates the water is flowing close to the danger mark in the river. A red alert means the water has crossed the danger level, so residents near the river require immediate evacuation. Each river has its own danger level.

The yellow alert has been given in areas where the rivers have embankments. The red alert has been sounded in areas unprotected by embankments.

In Birpara tea estate, seven-year-old Madhu Dhanwar drowned in the swollen Birbitijhora — a stream flowing next to the estate.

Police said Madhu had gone to the stream to bathe with three friends and was swept away.

At least 30,000 families are marooned in Alipurduar, the district that is worst hit. According to administrative sources, Madarihat, Birpara, Falakata, Kalchini, Hamiltangunj and at least 12 wards of Alipurduar town are waterlogged.

With the grim rain forecast for the next 72 hours, respite from waterlogging seems unlikely.

Train movement was affected along the Dooars route, that connects Siliguri Junction with Alipurduar Junction, as water started flowing over railway tracks in Hamiltonganj and swept away soil from under the tracks in a 150-metre-stretch.

The Guwahati-bound Sampark Kranti Express from Delhi and the Alipurduar-bound Kanchankanya Express from Sealdah were halted at Hasimara and New Jalpaiguri stations till the tracks were mended around 10am today, after which train movement resumed along the route.

Most schools in Alipurduar district remained shut as children did not turn up because of water-logging.

“Most shops and markets were closed in these areas till late afternoon,” said Niranjan Das, a local trader of Kalchini.

In Alipurduar town, residents marooned in their homes in 12 wards were rescued by civic workers who came with boats.

With water-logging reported in the district, Trinamul workers, under the leadership of Sourav Chakraborty put up a 30-minute-blockade at the entrance of Alipurduar municipality, questioning the absence of the chairman and his colleagues during the crisis.

The rise in the water level has cut off Totopara — a hamlet where Toto tribes live — from Madarihat.

“We need to cross six rivers to reach Madarihat from Totopara. All these rivers are carrying down huge volumes of water from the Bhutan Hills and thus, we could not go to Madarihat and need to wait unless water levels recede,” Bakul Toto, a Totopara resident, said over phone.

“Due to the monsoon rainfall in sub-Himalayan Bengal and in the Bhutan Hills, the water levels of rivers, most of which flow down from Bhutan and pass through Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts, have considerably increased,” Gautam Dutta, the chief engineer of the north Bengal flood control authority, said.

“People who were residing on dry beds of rivers have been asked to move into safer places.”

Dutta said the situation was “under control so far. However, we are apprehensive of a deterioration in the situation and flood if rainfall of similar intensity occurs in the next two-three days.”

In Jalpaiguri district, water from Dudua river has flooded Sishapara and Baroholia villages in Dhupguri block. Both these villages are located in areas that have no river embankments, leading to flooding.

Around 100 families have been shifted to a local school.

In Banarhat and Binnaguri, which are located in the Dhupguri block, water from Hatinalajhora — a small stream — has overflown its banks. In Malbazar block, water of the Teesta has flooded at least five localities in the Kranti area.

“Water levels have increased in Teesta since yesterday night and flooded unprotected localities like Champadanga, Senpara, Munshipara, Natunbazar and Keranipara in Kranti,” Janab Ali, a local trader in Kranti, said.

“We have also noticed that cracks have developed in some stretches of the embankments that guard certain areas of Kranti from the river. If the embankment gets damaged and water starts flowing in, the entire area would be inundated.”

In Jalpaiguri town, where it rained 110mm in the past 24 hours, waterlogging was reported in low-lying localities such as Mahamayapara, Pandapara, New Circular Road, Arabindanagar, Senpara and Mohantapara.

Though water from these areas started receding late in the morning, residents in Pareshnagar and Netajinagar, also in Jalpaiguri town, had to wade through water till afternoon as the Karala — a stream flowing through the town — had overflown its banks.

“The situation is pathetic in the low-lying areas. We don’t know what the Trinamul-led civic board is doing for the affected residents. No intervention has been noticed since morning to clear the standing water from these areas,” Parimal Malodas, a Congress councillor of Jalpaiguri municipality, said.

In Siliguri, where it rained 164mm, localities in six wards were under water in the morning.

Residents of two wards — four and six — blocked Jhankar More on Burdwan Road for one-and-a-half hours from 8am, protesting the pathetic state of drainage and blamed the civic authorities.

The blockade was withdrawn after police intervened. A section of the protesters alleged that police had lathicharged to disperse them. Police officers denied it.

Quick response teams (QRTs), functioning under the disaster management cell of the subdivisional administration, rushed to the affected areas in Siliguri.

They removed a wall which collapsed at Maharaj Colony in ward-4 and rescued three injured persons.

“The QRTs have worked in the affected areas and helped local people to move to safer places. We have inspected these areas and will submit a report to the civic authorities on drainage system so that accumulated water can be cleared from these localities during heavy rainfall,” Hirak Roy, the officer in charge of the disaster management cell, said. “We are also running a round-the-clock helpline for people.”