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16 dead, 2 million affected as 11 Bengal districts submerged

IANS | Kolkata |

Heavy rains and water released by the Damodar Valley Corporation has led to at least 16 deaths in West Bengal, while around 165 villages were submerged in 11 districts, leaving over two million people affected in the state, official sources said here on Thursday.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inspected some of the inundated areas in Hooghly and Howrah and held the Centre and the Damodar Valley Corporation responsible for what she called "man-made" floods.

A source at the state secretariat Nabanna said the deaths occurred due to reasons like drowning, snake bites and wall and house collapse as large parts of 104 blocks were inundated following intense rain since late Saturday.

Over 2 lakh hectares of cultivable land was submerged. The state government has opened 163 relief camps and also set up 36 temporary shelters for domestic animals.

"As per latest reports, 16 people have died since last Saturday for various reasons like drowning, snake bite and house and wall collapse in 11 districts. Over two million people are affected and 165 villages in 104 blocks are submerged," the sources said.

They said close to 8,000 houses suffered complete destruction, while more than 44,000 were partially damaged.

Meanwhile, state Irrigation Minister Rajib Banerjee said Birbhum, West Midnapore, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Bankura and Howrah were the worst affected districts.

Rivers in at least six districts have breached their banks.

"Some small rivers in Murshidabad and other districts have burst their banks. Many blocks in Hooghly are under water," the Minister said.

Banerjee went hammer and tongs at the Centre and the DVC for the inundation in the southern districts of the state.

"This is man-made flood. This will go on till September. We will monitor the situation closely till first or second week of October. It has rained more this year and on top of that the water is being released. DVC is releasing water without informing us," Banerjee told the media.

She interacted with locals and apprised them of the situation.

"What you see here is not due to rains. Over two lakh cusecs of water have been released. That water will reach the area by midnight. I can only apologise. Unless the DVC is revamped, the problem will persist," she said.

She demanded the central government should start dredging at places like Farraka Barrage and ports of Kolkata and Haldia to stop the flooding every year.

The DVC maintains that it has "no role" in releasing water as the decision is made by the Damodar Valley Reservoir Regulation Committee (DVRRC) that has representatives from the central and state governments.

"The regulatory authority is more dangerous. They don't consider the plight of the public. They don't understand. We alert the public on our own that DVC is releasing water. My throat is sore with requesting the Centre," Mamata said.