When the levee breaks
Photo by Subrata Biswas
Earlier this month, parts of the Northeast and West Bengal were hit by severe floods. Hundreds were killed while the survivors — at least 2,00,000 of them — were faced with the ordeal of piecing together their displaced, disrupted lives. Among the worst-hit were the southern regions of West Bengal, where the death toll, even during the early phases of the flooding, rose to 125. But the situation here was further exacerbated during the first week of August, when Cyclone Komen made landfall, triggering continuous heavy rainfall and high tides, and when the local authorities decided to release fresh water in huge volumes at different barrages located in the region, adding fuel to the fire.
Nearly 236 blocks in 12 districts of the southern part of West Bengal — mainly West Midnapore, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura among others — have suffered the brunt of the catastrophe. In total, over 21,000 villages have been flooded and according to officials of the Disaster Management Department, more than 10 million people are among those affected, some 7,43,000 houses damaged and around 12,92,372 hectares of arable land inundated. It is also reported that more than 2,700 relief camps have been set up here to provide succor to those in need of help. Almost three weeks have passed, but the situation remains unchanged in the affected districts mainly because of high tide and the continued release of water from different barrages. With the livelihood of most of the local farmers utterly destroyed, many are now planning to head to the city in search of work, calling this the worst floods to have hit the Bengal region in almost 15 years.
Boats have become the only viable mode of transport across the flood-hit regions of eastern India.
Gorachand Chakraborty (65), a resident of Singapur village, lost acres of crops and his family home in the recent floods.
An abandoned three-storey building in Midnapore, West Bengal.
The pitched and gabled roofs of local houses showing above an inundated field.
Niyati Bagh (centre), with her son Biswanath and daughter-in-law Sandharani, amid the ruins of their home in the Singapur village of West Bengal.
The catastrophe has left people homeless and without any means of livelihood, but the worst affected are the local children.
A local surveying a flood-hit area, with trees and houses completely submerged, in the west Midnapore district.
Sandharani Bagh (42) with her child at the devastated site of what once used to be her house in the Ghatal area of West Midnapore.
A submerged house in the southern part of West Bengal, where cyclone-triggered floods have wreaked havoc.