At least 15 people have died and three lakh people have been rendered homeless in at least six districts of the state following incessant rainfall in the past few days. The government on Tuesday said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was likely to conduct an aerial survey of areas in Howrah and Hooghly, the two worst-hit districts, on Wednesday to take stock of the situation.
“Flood-like situations have occurred in Howrah, Hooghly, Purba Bardhaman and Paschim Medinipur. Several houses have got submerged,” said a government official, adding that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams had been deployed in several areas.
Some officials said almost three lakh people got displaced after heavy rainfall in the last few days, followed by discharge of water from the dams of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), inundated major parts of the districts of Purba Bardhaman, Paschim Bardhaman, Paschim Medinipur, Hooghly, Howrah, and South 24 Parganas. The discharge of water caused the Rupnarayan and the Dwarakeswar rivers to overflow and flood residential areas.
“We are collecting the details of all 15 people who have lost their lives due to the flood. Some deaths are due to electrocution, snake bite, and wall collapse. We are waiting for a final report from the district administrations,” said an official.
In the area of Udaynarayanpur in Howrah, a 16-year-old girl identified as Rima Rakshita, a Class 10 student at Khila High School, was swept away by the flood waters. Local people said the flood water was flowing in front of their homes since Tuesday morning. Around noon, Rima fell into the water and was swept away. Her family rescued her and took her to Udaynarayanpur Rural Hospital, where doctors declared her dead. The teenager’s family said she had left the house to bathe in a pond but got swept away by the flood water.
Though state Irrigation Minister Soumen Mohapatra did not directly comment on Rima’s death, he blamed the Center for the floods. The minister visited a flooded area in the ??Bhatoa Kuliaghat area of Amta in Howrah during the day.
“The DVC deliberately released so much water that it led to a flood-like situation. The Central government deliberately created this man-made flood situation in Bengal. We condemn such politics,” Mahapatra told reporters after visiting Howrah.
The DVC has released 5.43 lakh cusecs of water between Saturday and Tuesday evening. On Saturday, the central government-run enterprise said the discharge of water was “unavoidable” because the storage facilities at the Panchet and Maithon dams had reached their capacities following heavy inflow of water from upstream Jharkhand.
Criticising the irrigation minister’s comment, state BJP spokesperson Samil Bhattacharya said, “Before making such allegations, the TMC government should know why the water was released. There must be a logic behind DVC releasing the water. The fact is the state government has failed to conduct relief and rescue operations properly and are now blaming others.”
Meanwhile, the state secretariat said the chief minister might conduct an aerial survey of Udaynarayanpur, and Khanakul in Hooghly district. Sources said she might also chair a flood-review meeting after the aerial survey. On Monday, senior state minister Subrata Mukherjee had visited a few flood-affected areas.
“Around 345 villages are affected by the floods, and more than 34,000 hectares of crop area have been damaged. Around 1,159 houses have been damaged in the district. We are presently running 89 relief camps,” said a Hooghly district official.
The situation is also grim in Howrah district, where about 1.8 lakh people have been affected. Ten gram panchayats have been severely affected. “Seven Gram Panchayats are completely under water, and three are partially submerged. The Udaynarayanpur block is the worst affected,” said a Howrah district official.
The Paschim Medinipur district administration said it opened 212 relief camps after areas in 172 gram panchayats and seven municipalities were flooded. The road linking the towns of Keshpur and Medinipur is under water. An official said more than one lakh tarpaulins, 1,000 MT of rice, thousands of drinking water pouches, and clean clothes had been sent to the shelters homes.
As the flood situation worsened in the past few days, a column of the Indian Army was deployed in the village of Dhanyaghari in Hooghly following a requisition request from the state government. Sources said Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters rescued at least 31 people from rooftops in the Dhanyaghari, and Khanakul-II block on Tuesday.