Fear of flood hung heavy across West Midnapore, as waters released from neighbouring Jharkhand left a vast swathe of the district under water on Tuesday.
As many as 200 villages on the banks of river Subarnarekha have been declared badly hit, with scores rendered homeless and scurrying for shelters to escape the ravages.
Fresh from cyclone Phailin, which left a trail of destruction and inundated a vast swathe of Odisha and Jharkhand, the government in the neighbouring state had little option but to release a huge column of water into Bengal.
Sources privy to the situation said many rivers in West Midnapore have already breached the danger mark.
Two youths who went out to sea in the Tajpur area of East Midnapore despite a weather alert, were feared drowned.
About 2.40 lakh cusecs of water have already been released from the Galudih dam in Jharkhand, leaving the Subarnarekha in spate and flooding no less than seven blocks of West Midnapore.
Several areas including Nayagram, Gopiballavpur, pockets of Sankrail, Keshiary and Dantan have been declared badly hit and several rivers are in spate.
About five lakh people across 200 villages have been left in desperate straits, said sources tracking the situation in areas worst hit.
Ghulam Ali Ansari, the district magistrate of Birbhum, said more than 50 relief shelters have been set up and the process of evacuating locals from low lying and flood-prone areas was already under way.
The district administration has stocked up on food and other essential items to be mobilised to the flood-hit, said the DM.
“Heavy rain in Jharkhand triggered by cyclone Phailin has left all rivers and dams in spate in West Midnapore. A vast swathe of the district including Keshiary, Gopiballavpur, Nayagram and Datan has gone under water,” a district official said.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is set to leave for West Midnapore shortly along with a battery of ministers, claimed her government had no prior word on the release of water from the Jharkhand dam and the situation currently has left scores of lives and livelihoods at risk.
In addition to the Galudih dam, waters released from the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) too are likely to wreak havoc over a vast area of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore in the coming days, said sources.
“The BDOs of all blocks have been alerted about the evolving situation and asked to move people to safer areas and stock up on relief materials. We are taking all possible steps to fight the crisis,” Ansari said.