Nine dead in Bengal floods, army out in East Midnapore
Flood fury raged in four West Bengal districts claiming nine lives over the past four days while the army was deployed in East Midnapore district to repair a 75-metre embankment, officials said Thursday.
Eighty blocks are affected, over 83,000 hectares of crops destroyed and 71,000 makeshift and permanent houses damaged in the calamity, caused by days of heavy rainfall due to cyclone Phailin and release of water into rivers by the reservoirs in Jharkhand.
The situation was grim in East Midnapore district where seven deaths have been reported, officials said.
An army column was deployed to seal a breach in an embankment on river Kangsabati that caused a worrisome situation in the lower parts of East Midnapore.
"The flow of water along the breach is fast and sealing the breach is underway which poses a challenge. The troops from the Barrackpore army cantonment are presently working round-the-clock to restore the embankment even as additional columns from Sukhna cantonment are also on their way to the site.
"Additional columns are also on stand-by with boats for any relief or rescue operations, if the situation so demands," said a defence ministry release.
The state's disaster management department said that while the water level has gone down in parts of the affected districts, fresh areas were inundated.
"In all, 260 relief camps have been set up to shelter around 81,560 people in the flooded zones," disaster management department joint secretary Amit Chowdhury told media persons.
State Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee made a round of the inundated areas of West Midnapore district Thursday, and later said that though the situation improved in Dantan, the water has not receded in other areas of the district.
"People are taking shelter on highways, schools and relief centres set up by the government," he said.
An East Midnapore district official said the flood situation was under control though new areas in Nandakumar and Tamluk were submerged Thursday.
There was flooding in the Udaynarayanpur area of Howrah district and certain blocks like Khanakhul and Arambag in Hooghly district were also submerged.
The floods triggered a political blame game, with the opposition parties taking the state's Trinamool government to task for "inadequate" and "partisan" distribution of relief and skyrocketing prices of edibles.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya accused the government of indulging in politics over the availability of essential commodities in flood-hit districts.
"Staples like rice, baby food, drugs are not reaching the flood-hit areas and those that are reaching are being subjected to party politics. That's the worse part," said Bhattacharya.
The opposition Left Front alleged that the government was caught "unprepared" to tackle the crisis.
Claiming that nearly 10 lakh people have been affected in the floods, leader of opposition in the assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said boats have not been sent to the inundated areas to rescue the people.
"Even where boats are there, their number is grossly inadequate. The relief that is being distributed is also insufficient," said Mishra, also a Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member.
Meanwhile, Damodar Valley Corporation officials denied allegations by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that it released water from its reservoirs without informing the state government.
A DVC spokesperson said it discharged only 32,000 cusecs of water from two of its reservoirs during the day, while the government officials claimed the figures were higher.
(Posted on 17-10-2013)