A day after eight people were swept away due to a flash flood in the Mal river near Malbazar town of Jalpaiguri district during Durga idol immersion, administration and police officials Thursday said the search operation for the missing people was still underway.
Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Civil Defence have been deployed for search operation, officials said.
The officials, however, maintained that they received no more reports of missing persons.
“Of the 15 injured, 10 are in hospital. The death toll is eight. A search operation is still on,” Jalpaiguri Superintendent of Police Debarshi Dutta said.
The incident took place around 8.30pm when several people entered the river to take part in idol immersion. The sudden rise in the water level caught them unawares and several people were swept away. A few who took shelter on a raised, grassy area in the middle of the river were rescued.
Local residents accused the administration of lack of preparations for the immersion ritual. The locals along with family members of the deceased blocked the road at the Caltex intersection in Malbazar. They claimed that there were only eight civil defence workers at the site where thousands of people had gathered for immersion. Also, there was no boat or adequate equipment to handle an emergency situation, they added.
A civil defence worker said they had only ropes at their disposal for rescue operation.
“Sudden rise in water level of the river is common but there was no proper arrangements. There was no weather alert either. Despite forecast of heavy rain in North Bengal, why no adequate preparations were made? There was no proper lighting in the vicinity despite such a gathering,” a resident said.
Expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of the deceased. “Anguished by the mishap during Durga Puja festivities in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones,” the PM tweeted.
“Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each of the deceased in the tragic mishap… The injured would be given Rs. 50,000,” he said in another tweet.
In a series of tweets, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also announced compensation for the families of the deceased and urged people to “stand together in these times of distress”.
“Search and rescue operations by NDRF and SDRF are still underway. Around 70 people were saved by the efforts of the police, civil defence volunteers and local youth. I commend their selfless service,” she said, adding that there were no reports of missing persons so far.
“An ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh will be given to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured. For any assistance, kindly reach out to the following helpline numbers- 03561230780/9073936815,” Banerjee said in another tweet.