Bengal flood situation grim, says Bhattacharya


Kolkata : The flood situation in southern West Bengal was grim Saturday as thousands of houses were washed away in four days of heavy rainfall affecting 763,000 people even as the army mounted massive relief and rescue operations.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya toured the worst hit West Midnapore district Saturday and held meetings with officials on providing aid to the homeless.

Admitting that relief material for the displaced was not enough, he promised to scale up operations.

"Rain has stopped but the situation is grim in many places, especially at Ghatal, Sabang and Datan in West Midnapore. Relief material provided so far is not adequate. I am going back to Kolkata and sending more relief, including dry food and rice, immediately," Bhattacharya told reporters in Midnapore.

"We will airdrop food from helicopters in affected regions. We are trying to rescue people and reach medicines," he said.

"About 25,000 people have been rescued in West Midnapore but more needs to be done. Three columns of army have been deployed there," he said, adding that four people died in the district.

"In areas hit by flash floods, the situation is better as the water did not accumulate," he said.

The overall death toll in West Bengal from the natural calamity stood at 20 so far, according to officials.

The government has released Rs.120 million for relief and sought the help of the army and air force to rescue thousands of marooned villagers in West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Hooghly, Bankura, Howrah, Burdwan and Purulia districts.

"We will release more funds immediately. Money would not be a problem," the chief minister said.

He said the situation was compounded with about 225 mm of rain in a single day in some areas.

In West Midnapore's Jhargram area, especially in Sankrail block, about 1,000 mud houses were washed away.

The situation is serious in Kharagpur in the district also as vast areas are submerged, officials said.

In Hooghly district's Arambagh and Khanakul, the entire area has been inundated. About 25 villages in Khanakul are badly hit.

Durgapur industrial town in Burdwan district was also inundated. In Howrah district, about 10,000 people are affected in Udaynarayanpur and Amta.

On Friday, the army was called out for rescue operations after there was a let up in the downpour in Kolkata.

G.C. Debnath, regional director of the meteorological department, held out some relief for the rain-hit people. "There would be rainfall but not heavy rain any more," the official told IANS.