The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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River rage leaves thousands homeless
- Ganga breaches barrier

Manikchak (Malda), Aug. 20: Six villages went under water last night after the Ganga breached a 100m stretch of the embankment in the Gopalpur gram panchayat area here. Nearly 6,000 people have been affected.

The flooded villages — Kamalpur, Uttor Hukumattola, Dakshin Hukumattola, Elahitola, Ishwartola and Kamaltipur — are located around 30km from Malda town. Barring the few families who have houses on relatively high ground, most of the other villagers had to take shelter on the embankments that are still standing.

Recalling the horror of the night before, Marjina Mohsin of Ishwartola said she had been woken up by the wails of her four-year-old daughter.

“I woke up to find my daughter floating along with utensils and other things in the gradually rising water inside the hut. I snatched my daughter out of the water, woke my husband and somehow we managed to get out of the hut and reach the embankment,” she said.

A little distance away, 70-year-old Jamaluddin Sheikh sat with his head in his hands. “My bamboo hut with its straw roof has been washed away. Where will we find shelter tonight'” he asked.

Officials in the irrigation department said things might get worse in the next 24 hours.

“The water level of the Ganga is receding in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the north and all the water is flowing down to Malda. The current water level of the river here is 24.96m. A red alert is sounded when the level reaches 24.99m and it is just a matter of time,” said the executive engineer of the district irrigation department, Soumen Mitra.

Back at the affected area, Ibrahim Sheikh, the pradhan of the Gopalpur gram panchayat, created a furore today when he alleged that the embankment had been intentionally breached by a group of criminals last night. However, he could not say why anyone would do so.

District magistrate Chittaranjan Das said he was aware of the allegation, but refused to comment without any proof.

“I have told the block development officer concerned to ask the villagers to take shelter in safe places,” the district magistrate said.

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