WITH THE death of 12 more people in the last 24 hours, the toll in flood-affected districts of the state reached 28 on Friday. “Thirteen people have drowned. Four people have died in lightning strike and three people were electrocuted. Four people died due to wall collapse and three people died in snake bites,” said Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya, adding that another person has died in rain-related incidents.
As many as 44,542 people have been evacuated to 207 relief camps in districts of West Midnapore, Burdwan, Bankura, Howrah, Hooghly and North-24 Parganas, he added. Release of water has come down from dams and barrages, he said. In all, 22,37,849 people have been affected in the floods, Bhattacharya said, adding that weather conditions showed signs of improvement.
Maintaining that out of the 104 blocks in 11 flood-affected districts, Bhattacharya said six blocks have been seriously affected in Hooghly, four in Bankura, two in Howrah and one in Burdwan.
The Army’s Eastern Command said the state government on Friday sought help from the Air Force to rescue 150-odd stranded people in West Midnapore. While an Mi17 V5 helicopter was sent from the Barrackpore Air Force Station, people who were marooned at Pratappur in the district, allegedly refused to board the helicopter, said a statement by the Army’s Eastern Command.
It added that the Barrackpore Air Force Station received the request from the state government around 3.45 pm and an Mi17 V5 helicopter was made airborne at 4.20 pm.
“…It was learnt that while NDRF was already on the job since noon rescuing people from their flooded houses, those who had climbed into the rooftops could not be rescued as the people were afraid to leave the safety of their houses. That’s when a call was made to the Indian Air Force,” the statement read. “By the time the helicopter arrived, the people, probably realising that water levels were not rising any further and that it would be perhaps safer to take the boat than the helicopter, were not ready to board the helicopter…,” it added. The aircraft returned to Barrackpore at 6.40 pm.
However, a release by the government earlier in the day stated that it had asked the Air Force to deploy helicopters to rescue 20 people from a two-storey house in Ghatal block’s Pratappur village.
While leaving state secretariat Nabanna, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the operation to rescue the 20 people will resume from Saturday morning. “Today, the rescue operation could not be conducted as the situation is dangerous. Too much water released (by Damodar Valley Corporation) has led to such a situation. Such amount of water was not even released during the 1978 flood. The rescue operation will resume tomorrow morning,” she said.
Asked whether she would write to the Centre regarding the DVC problem, Mamata said: “I have been writing to them for so many years, but the problem has not been addressed.”
Several areas in West Midnapore, Howrah, Bankura and West Burdwan districts of the state have been flooded due to incessant rains and the release of water by the DVC from its barrages owing to heavy precipitation in upper catchment areas in Jharkhand.
Around 23 lakh people have been hit in over 165 inundated villages.