| A boat waits near a flooded village in Manikchak to take the affected families to safety. (Inset) Villagers dismantle their houses before the Ganga gobbles them up. Pictures by Surajit Roy
Malda, Aug. 19: The Ganga, flowing above the extreme danger level, has gobbled up two villages in Manikchak over the past four days, forcing nearly 150 people to take shelter on higher grounds.
The situation is equally desperate in Ratua I block, where the Phulhar river has flooded four villages following incessant rain since August 15. More than 350 people have been rendered homeless and 3,000 cut off from the rest of the district.
Fresh erosions have also taken place on a 2km stretch along the river between Jalanghitola and Ratanpur in the same block. A 40-year-old woman suffering from an enteric disease died without treatment after the authorities failed to arrange for a boat to take her to the nearest health centre.
Executive engineer of the irrigation department Soumen Mitra said the water levels of all the rivers passing through the district are rising fast.
“Both the Ganga and the Phulhar are flowing above the extreme danger level,” he said. “We fear that the situation will get worse in the next 48 hours.”
District magistrate Chittaranjan Das said he had talked to officials of the Farakka Barrage Authority (FBA), asking them to take measures to arrest erosion.
“But the barrage officials have expressed their inability to do anything right now. They might take up anti-erosion work after the Pujas,” Das said.
The FBA, which is a central agency, and the Bengal government has been at loggerheads since the beginning of monsoon this year over anti-erosion work in Malda. Both sides have tried to put the onus on the other.
The district magistrate added that the block development officers have been asked to arrange for relief and rehabilitation for the affected people at the earliest.
Last night, Setara Bibi, 40, died of enteric disease at Govindapur, located around 50km north of Malda town. The pradhan of the Mahanandatola panchayat samiti, Preeti Mondal, said Setara had been ill for the last few days, but she could not be taken to any health centre because of the non-availability of boats.
“Vast areas of the block have been under water for nearly a week. We could not provide a boat to the family to take her to the health centre. The block development officer was informed, but even he could not help,” the pradhan said.