Thousands to be evacuated as Bengal’s cyclone-hit villages brace for spring tide on June 6

Thousands of people living in the cyclone-hit villages of south Bengal will once again have to be evacuated and shifted to safer places, as the water level in the rivers is expected to rise by a few metres during the spring tide on June 6.

The water will gush into the villages through the breaches in the embankments left behind by Cyclone Amphan inundating new areas. Saline water had gushed into the villages through these gaps destroying farmlands, ponds and huts. Cyclone Amphan had battered West Bengal on May 20.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a video conference with the top brass of the district administration on Thursday. She has directed officials to remain alert and evacuate people if necessary.

“The spring tide will come on June 6. The water could gush in through the breaches in the embankments. Some embankments which were badly damaged may get washed away. The situation will worsen if there is rain. The district administration will have to evacuate people from vulnerable areas,” she added.

Due to Cyclone Amphan, which had hit the Bengal coast on May 20, around 8.5 lakh people had to be evacuated and kept in storm and flood shelters. Many are yet to return home as several villages still remain inundated.

“We are planning to evacuate around 20,000 villagers from the three blocks which have been hardest hit by Cyclone Amphan – Kultali, Gosaba and Patharpratima. But as it is a tide, the water level will start receding after a few hours,” said P Ulaganathan, district magistrate of South 24 Parganas.

While high tide and low tide are daily occurrences, spring tides occur during new moon and full moon because of the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. The water level in rivers and seas reaches its peak during the spring tide.

“More than 350 families are still staying under polythene sheets on village roads that are on higher grounds and are relatively safe. They have lost their houses in the cyclone. Villagers have been asked to move to the cyclone shelters for a few hours when the tide comes. Those who stay in very low lying areas may have to stay longer and the water may take time to recede,” said Debesh Mondol, MLA of Hingalganj area in North 24 Parganas, which was hit by the cyclone.

Around 160 km of river embankments and four km of sea dykes have been damaged by Cyclone Amphan. The river and sea water had gushed in during the storm destroying around 11 lakh hectares of crop land. Tons of fishes were killed when saline water destroyed around 58,000 hectares of water bodies where sweet water fishes were reared.

“We have already started alerting the villagers living in vulnerable and low lying areas along rivers and villages facing the sea. We will be shifting some of them to relief shelters on June 6. Food and drinking water is being stored,” said a senior official in East Midnapore district.

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