The torrential downpour caused by the southwest monsoon across north Bengal has led to floods in the South Dinajpur district.
Incessant rainfall over the past three days caused at least three prominent rivers of the district, Atreyee, Punarbhaba and Tangan, to swell, spill over the banks and flood several localities. At least 5,000 people have abandoned their homes and are staying in flood shelters.
In Balurghat, the district headquarters, the Atreyee river is flowing over danger level. On Monday, the river flooded Atrayee Colony in ward 17.
A man carries his belongings after the Atrayee river flooded his home in Atrayee Colony, Balurghat town, on Monday
A number of houses have been flooded and around 20 families have moved to higher areas. “It started raining again on Monday morning. If such rainfall persists, the flood situation will aggravate further,” said a resident.
The swollen Atreyee has also damaged its embankment, which guards Balurghat and its adjoining areas from the river, in at least eight locations. On Monday morning, Ashok Kumar Mitra, the chairman of Balurghat municipality, visited some affected areas with officials of the state irrigation department.
“The river is eroding the earth of the embankment. There are some rain cuts and cracks. We are taking steps on an emergency basis to prevent the river from damaging the embankment further or breaching it. We will carry out repairs in some locations while the irrigation department will take care of the rest,” the civic chairman said.
In the Gangarampur block of the district, the Punarbhaba river breached one of its embankments in the Hossainpur area on Monday. The river water has entered the village and flooded it, prompting locals to shift to safer areas.
A team from the block administration and the police visited the spot to take stock of the situation.
“A concrete road built on the embankment was also washed away. The river has flooded stretches of farmlands too,” said a resident.
The Tangan river, which flows through Bansihari block, has also spilled over its banks and flooded a number of villages.
On Monday, some flood-hit residents raised a blockade in NH512, which halted traffic on the Buniadpur-Malda route, alleging the administration was not giving them adequate food and relief materials. Police persuaded them to clear the road after an hour.
“We have spoken with our senior officers in Balurghat. Arrangements are being made on an emergency basis to provide food and other relief to them,” said an official of the block administration.
In Harirampur block, the downpour waterlogged many areas, including the block rural hospital. Critical patients were shifted to the super-specialty hospital in Gangarampur and other patients to a local school.
A senior official of the North Dinajpur district administration said: "Sixty-six flood shelters have been opened. We are providing cooked and dry food to affected residents. Hospitals are on alert and the irrigation department has been instructed to carry out repairs."
The lightning that accompanied the downpour claimed three lives in South Dinajpur on Sunday and Monday, sources said.
Lightning claimed two persons in Kushmandi on Sunday. One more person died struck by lightning in Bansihari on Monday. The identities of the dead persons could not, however, be ascertained till late on Monday.
Repairs on NH10
The direct road connectivity from Siliguri to Sikkim and Kalimpong on NH10 remained closed for the second day on Monday as the state PWD took up repairs at the cave-in site at Swetijhora.
PWD workers repair the cave-in on NH10 on Monday
The downpour made a 20-metre stretch of the highway collapse on the Teesta on Sunday morning, creating a 30-metre void, and the rest of the road hung precariously. Kalimpong district administration on Sunday halted traffic on the affected stretch. Since then, vehicles from Sikkim and Kalimpong are taking detours to reach Siliguri, and vice-versa.
Because of detours, it is taking around six hours to reach Kalimpong and eight hours to Sikkim capital Gangtok from Siliguri. Usually, it takes half the time to reach these places from Siliguri.
Engineer Subodh Chhetri of PWD’s NH-X division said they started the restoration work, but the swollen Teesta made their work difficult.
Additional reporting by Bireswar Banerjee in Siliguri