1.6 million affected in West Bengal floods, army called out

June 18th, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 18 (IANS) The army was called out in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district Wednesday to tackle the worsening flood situation which affected 1.6 million people in the state with five people having died and train services being paralysed due to the ravaging waters. The situation turned grim in East Midnapore and West Midnapore districts. About 53,000 people were rescued and 40,000 shifted to safer places, even as the weatherman predicted more rainfall in the state.

The state received 62.4 mm rains from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon.

“About 1.6 million people have been affected due to the floods,” state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta told newspersons after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the state secretariat.

He said 350 tonnes of rice, 25,000 tarpaulin sheets have been sent to the affected areas, and Rs.2.5 billion sanctioned for emergency relief.

A defence spokesman said one team each from 3 Madras Regiment and 6 Engineers Regiment were being sent to assist the district administration in relief and rescue operations in the severely affected Sabong, Narayangarh and Pingla areas of West Midnapore district.

Air Force speedboats have been deployed to rescue marooned people in Belda, the spokesman told IANS.

Train services over South Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Kharagpur section was badly hit, due to heavy rainfall in Kharagpur of West Midnapore district and Contai in East Midnapore district.

Eighteen long-distance trains were cancelled, while several trains have been stranded at various stations due to waterlogging on the tracks.

Raj Kanojia, state inspector general of police (law and order), said five deaths were reported in the West Midnapore district due to the floods.

Eleven houses were damaged in landslides triggered by heavy rains at five municipal wards of the Kurseong sub-division in Northern West Bengal.

Daybed Dash, Kurseong sub-divisional officer, said some people had to be shifted to safer places, while a relief centre was opened at the St. Joseph Primary School.

The power supply was also disrupted in Kurseong as a large number of electric poles were uprooted because of the rains.

Efforts were on to trace Goutam Basu, confidential assistant of former Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who was swept away Tuesday by flash floods which inundated a bridge that Basu was crossing in a car.

The Coast Guard has been asked by the district administration to send divers, the police said.

The situation improved in the metropolis, as the severity of rainfall reduced Wednesday morning.

According to the city airport officials, no flights have been cancelled Wednesday due to weather conditions.

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