A 40-year-old man who had risked his life to save seven women and children from meeting a watery grave in a crocodile-infested rivulet during the evacuation drive ahead of Cyclone Hudhud, died on Sunday sending shockwaves across far-flung Okilopala and Satabhaya villages in Odisha's Kendrapara district.
"Sahadev Samal died of pneumonia. He was exposed to prolonged cold. We failed to save him despite our best efforts", said a medical officer of Rajnagar community health centre Rashmi Ranjan Mohanty.
Tragedy had struck in sea-erosion hit Satabhaya area of Kendrapara district on Saturday as a mechanized boat engaged in evacuating pregnant women and children as a safety measure due to the impending cyclone, had capsized in a crocodile-infested Baunsagadi rivulet resulting in the death of a nine-year-old girl. An eleven-year-old is still untraceable and is feared drowned, local police said.
"He was a brave soul. I am alive today because of him. I am shocked to know that he is dead. As we screamed for help, he had jumped into the water body to save us. He was an expert swimmer. He towed me to safety", narrated 39-year-old Babuli Mallick, a survivor from Magarkanda village.
Rajnagar Tehsildar, Khirod Behera said, "I had boarded the boat which capsized. The mishap took place while it was taking a turn towards the ghat. Local people had jumped into the river to rescue the people. Sahadev was one of them".
The district administration gave Rs 10,000 ex-gratia towards the deceased?s bereaved family members, sources said.
Locals living in Satabhaya region depend on country boats that help them cross the creek every day. The creek, which is a part of Bhitarkanika river system, is replete with crocodiles.
People living in Satabhaya area under Rajnagar Tehsil are literally living on the edge in the face of unabated erosion by the sea over the years. They are sandwiched between the fury of the sea and governmental apathy. Measures to relocate them to a rehabilitation colony are stuck in bureaucratic red-tape for over two decades, villagers alleged.