| The Ganga and the Pagla merge at Panchanandapur I gram panchayat area. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Sept. 4: The people of Panchanandapur I gram panchayat area have again fallen victim to the wrath of nature.
Two villages ' Ramlaltolla and Biharilaltolla ' have been washed away after the Ganga merged with the Pagla yesterday afternoon. After being ravaged for four hours, the 330 families of the two villages had lost everything they had. No casualty has, however, been reported.
An alert has been sounded in the adjoining blocks of Englishbazar and Kaliachak I, II and III, which might get flooded by the Pagla, said a source in the irrigation department.
Fearing another devastating sweep by the twin rivers, hundreds of families in the area have started vacating their homes for safer places.
Over the past few years, around 17 of nearly 30 villages in the panchayat area have been washed away during erosion, a source said. After yesterday's destruction, only 11 villages now exist. Residents of five have already been evacuated.
The Pagla, which was a narrow trickling stream till the other day, has suddenly taken alarming proportions and threatens to devour three blocks.
According to the executive engineer of the irrigation department, Pundarikaksha Roy, seven villages have been cut off the mainland after the Ganga merged with the Pagla.
'The situation is alarming. The villagers do not know how to save themselves and salvage their belongings. More than 730 families have taken shelter in a nearby school,' said Rafiqul Islam, the secretary of the Ganga Erosion Resistance Committee.
He alleged that no relief had yet reached the affected families. 'The erosion occurred yesterday. It is almost 24 hours now, but government officials are yet to bring relief to the affected people,' he said.
The villagers fear that the entire gram panchayat area might be devoured by the surging waters of the Ganga.
Recalling how the irrigation department's inspection bungalow, Ganga Bhavan, was devoured on September 3 two years ago, Roy pointed out that this time the river has washed away a century-old Durga temple in the area.
The executive engineer, who visited the affected area this morning, however, assured that there was no immediate threat from the merged rivers. The water level of the Ganga has already decreased by 28 cm and it is going down further, he said. 'We have to be on the lookout throughout this month. Had the villagers allowed us to build the ninth bund on the river, the situation would have been different,' Roy said.
Additional district magistrate Bhabani Prasad Barat said two boats have been pressed into service to ferry the stranded villagers and two generators have also been arranged for.
The block development officer has been asked to prepare a list of the victims and send them relief.