By Caritas India partners Seva Kendra Calcutta (SKC)
From Kalinagar, we set out to Sehara Radhanagar Panchayat, which in normal times would possible take around one hour, but Aila had disrupted normalcy.
A 12 kilometres journey on motorised rickshaw van seemed never ending. As much as 95 per cent of the road was underwater, sometimes as much 3 feet high. We took a left turn from Jhanjhania More onto the brick lined road and travelled inland until a point where the path vanished into large mass of water that could be easily mistaken for a river.
Our motorised van stopped at a place called Choto Sehara, Uttarpara. This place was actually a transit hub, where we were to wait for the boat, which would take us to Sehara Radhanagar. But this town was an eye opener for us.
We found many people on the pathway, huddled in makeshift shelters. Seeing us, many people came forward. As we began talking with them, we were told that this particular area (Uttarpara) lies in a typical mid-way between Kalinagar and Sehara Radhanagar Panchayat. As a result, no relief has reached them yet.
This area of Uttarpara (where we stopped) was actually the end of the village. It took the brunt of the first impact of the gushing waters. Many houses collapsed. People were rummaging through the ruins in the hope of salvaging their belongings.
We talked to Khabirali Fakir, whose brother’s concrete house has now been turned to a shelter for many. The house has a tube well too. But unfortunately the house is marooned by water on all sides. People go to fetch drinking water from there, but carrying it back is a difficult task.
They told us that they could not take a bath for days. Saline water is causing skin problems for them. Some even told us that they had not even changed their clothes ever since Aila struck, since all was washed away.
Considering the seriousness of the problem, members of the voluntary organisations, Dakshin Akhratola Swami Vivekananda Sangha and Ghoshpur Debasish Sebashram Sangha asked them to list out the names of the people in Uttarpara and hand it over to them so that some relief can be arranged. They did it and handed over some 296 names at the end of the day.
After nearly 2 hours wait at Uttarpara, our team travelled to Sehara Radhanagar Panchayat on a boat over paddy vast stretches of paddy fields that seemed like river.
An hour boat ride took us to the other side of the area that was actually the gateway to the saline water.
The Dasha River had breached the embankment at two places severely. And these gaping wounds gave way to waters that travelled as far as 15-20 kilometres to sweep away villages.