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Relief, tide not that hungry

Pakhiralay, June 7: A sense of relief swept across the Sunderbans after two weeks of living on the edge when the hungry tide that everyone had feared came without its appetite for destruction.

Some embankments were breached, water levels of rivers rose and villages were inundated during the spring tide, but the damage was far less than what the Aila-struck residents had feared. No lives were lost, officials said.

“It seems the worst is over,” South 24-Parganas district magistrate Khalil Ahmed said.

The water level was almost back to normal by evening after rising by five to seven feet in the afternoon. “Fortunately, there was no storm accompanying the spring tide. We had feared that the water level would rise by up to 15 feet at some places, which would have been disastrous,” Ahmed said.

Nobody in Jatirampur, a tiny hamlet of farmers and fishermen, slept a wink last night. “Even my little one wouldn’t shut her eyes. It was as if she knew a disaster was upon us,” said Kamala Mandal, who left for Gosaba with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and brother-in-law last evening.

Husband Tarapada stayed back, though. “How could I have deserted my fellow villagers? All the men were dumping mud on the embankment through the night, and I decided to join them,” he said.

Tarapada does 12-hour shifts in a Bangalore stone factory where he is employed. But nothing would have prepared him for the “night without end” that he and his fellow villagers spent working to stave off the spring tide.

Each time a wave hit, a part of the embankment crumbled. “It was like watching your life being snuffed out,” said Tarapada, who returned home from Bangalore two days after Aila struck.

The tide vigil across the Sunderbans, which began last evening, ended this afternoon.

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