The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Relief rows into full-flooded five

When Ansar Ali went to bed on Wednesday night, the rain was steady but the road in front of his house was clear.

When he woke up on Thursday morning, he found himself marooned in a sea of water surrounding his house. By the evening, a boat ride was the only way to get out of the neighbourhood. All this, just off the city's link to the emerging Calcutta.

Topsia Chowrasta, where Ali lives, was among the five worst rain-hit pockets in Calcutta, the others being Amherst Street, Ultadanga, Dhakuria and Thanthania.

For some, like Kausar Ali of Panchannagram, in Topsia, evacuation was the only way out as the putrid waters engulfed his house and forced him to abandon his belongings and flee to another house on Tiljala Road.

The situation was no better in some of the other 'danger zones' in the city. On Badurbagan Street, off Amherst Street, Kajari Das entered her kitchen on Thursday morning to find her utensils bobbing in a pool of water.

'My kitchen is at a slightly lower level than the rest of the house and since the kitchen door faces the street, water had rushed in,' Das said. 'There was no point in even trying to salvage anything till the water had gone down.'

By evening, the Amherst Street area, too, was playing host to boats. That came as a 'pleasant surprise' to Tarapada Dutta.

'Throughout the day, it was like a bandh, the streets were flooded and deserted and the shutters of all the shops were firmly shut. But suddenly, in the evening, boats were plying on the waterlogged streets and the bandh was over,' smiled the Amherst Street resident.

Police had requisitioned the boats to distribute relief among marooned residents.

Residents of Muktaram Babu Street, in Thanthania, were resigned to their rained-in fate. 'Every monsoon, the streets are flooded, we are stranded and no one bothers,' said Rita Mondal. 'The civic authorities say they have set up a pumping station here, but the waterlogging has only increased.'

At Dhakuria Station Road, in south Calcutta, Sekhar Das was left complaining how throughout Thursday residents of the area had been cut off from the rest of the city.

'The water is more than waist-high here and there is no one I know who has ventured out,' Das said. 'We have no clue what is happening in the rest of Calcutta.'

The entire Dhakuria bridge-Panchanantala stretch, as well as plush pockets in south Calcutta, remained non-navigable till late afternoon.

At Ultadanga, hundreds waited for trains through the morning as the main road resembled a sea of sighs, with dysfunctional cars and desperate commuters.

Precious few dry stretches kept Calcutta commuters afloat, but retailers were drowned in the losses of a vital pre-Puja day gone under. From shopping malls to age-old markets, footfalls were few and spending scarce.

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