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 due to pneumonia.
“Sahadev Samal died of pneumonia. He was exposed to prolonged cold. We failed to save him despite our best efforts,” said Rashmi Ranjan Mohanty, a medical officer of Rajnagar community health centre.
Tragedy had struck on Saturday in Satabhaya area of Kendrapara district as a mechanised boat engaged in evacuating women and children 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 man. I am alive today because of him. I am shocked to know that he is dead. As we screamed for help, he jumped into the water to save us. He was an expert swimmer. He brought me to safety,” said 39-year-old Babuli Mallick, a survivor from Magarkanda village.
Rajnagar Tehsildar Khirod Behera said, “I was on 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.”
Villagers 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.