Kolkata, June 1 (IANS) Volunteers involved in relief operations in the cyclone ravaged Sundarbans of West Bengal are fearing an epidemic once the floodwater recedes in the mangrove forests that cover the region.
'We are apprehending that many water-borne diseases might break out in Sundarbans villages once the water level starts going down in the next couple of days,' Subhro Sen, a voluntary relief worker, said Monday. Sen, from the Sundarbans programme of WWF, rushed relief material to the area two days after the cyclone.
'We've already received a few reports of health hazards from different islands of Sundarbans. We think the number of health cases will go up in the next one or two weeks in the area. The government needs to take immediate action to combat outbreak of any further epidemic,' he added.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Sunday visited cyclone-affected South 24 Parganas district. He repeatedly asked villagers not to drink contaminated water.
'I request all of you not to drink contaminated water. Always take pouched water that we are sending as relief material. If possible, you can also drink water with some medicine in it,' Bhattacharjee said.
'Please take care of your children and don't let them drink tap or tubewell water,' he added.
According to medical experts, water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, gastroenteritis can break out in the marooned islands of the Sundarbans delta if proper care is not taken by the state administration.
'People should eat boiled food and water as far as they can. They must keep everything clean to avert any type of health hazard, though we know it's not practically possible for them during such an adverse situation,' said a city-based physician Dalia Chowdhury.
'Government should also provide medicine, dry food and drinking water to the villagers. The administration should also carry out drives to clear out dead floating bodies of cattle from the areas,' she said.
So far, 125 deaths have been reported due to Cyclone Aila, which tore through extensive parts of West Bengal May 25, levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction in 13 of its 19 districts.
Nearly 600,000 houses have been fully or partially damaged in the calamity which has affected over six million people.
South 24 Parganas - where the Sundarbans take up most of the area - and North 24 Parganas districts have been the worst-hit and hundreds of villages continued to be marooned with salt water intrusion destroying the paddy crop and freshwater fish.