KOLKATA: At least 15 people have died, and lakhs of people were rendered homeless or marooned, as the flood situation in six districts of West Bengal aggravated on Tuesday, triggering a slugfest between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition BJP over the release of "excess water" by the DVC.
Around three lakh people got displaced after heavy rain in the last few days, followed by discharge of water from Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) dams, inundated major parts of the districts of Purba Bardhaman, Paschim Bardhaman, Paschim Medinipur, Hooghly, Howrah and South 24 Parganas, officials said.
The DVC, since July 31, has released 5.43 lakh cusec of water till Tuesday evening.
Seven people died and 2.5 lakh have been affected by the flood Till Monday.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who keeps a tab on the relief and rescue operations and has sent ministers to the affected areas, is likely to conduct an aerial survey of Howrah and Hooghly districts on Wednesday to take stock of the situation.
She will later conduct an administrative meeting, officials said.
"We are collecting the details of all 15 people who have lost their lives due to the flood. Some deaths are due to electrocution, snake bite, wall collapse. We are waiting for a final report from district administrations," an official said.
Several areas in the six affected districts are reeling under flood, with people struggling to wade through waist-deep water.
The districts of Hooghly, Howrah and West Midnapore are among the worst affected due to the floods.
Around 79,000 people were affected in Hooghly district alone, whereas crops and livestock worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed.
"Around 345 villages are affected by the floods, and more than 34 thousand hectares of crop area have been damaged. Around 1159 houses have been damaged in the district. We are presently running 89 relief camps," a Hooghly district official said.
The situation was worse in Kolkata's neighbouring Howrah district, where around 1.8 lakh people were affected as 10 gram panchayats were severely affected by the floods.
"Seven Gram Panchayats are completely under water, and three are partially submerged. The Udaynarayanpur block is the worst affected," a Howrah district official said.
Water from the Rupnarayan and the Dwarakeswar rivers have overtopped banks and entered residential areas, flooding homes, the official said.
State Irrigation Minister Soumen Mahapatra conducted a tour of the Udaynarayanpur block in Howrah district and took stock of the relief and rescue operation.
The Paschim Medinipur district administration has opened 212 relief camps as areas under 172 gram panchayats and seven municipalities were flooded.
The link road between towns of Keshpur and Medinipur is under water.
Over one lakh tarpaulin, 1,000 MT of rice, thousands of drinking water pouches and clean clothes have been sent to the shelters homes, an official stated.
On Monday, the Army and the Air Force had undertaken rescue operations in Hooghly district, where rivers have overtopped banks and flooded villages.
The ongoing flood situation triggered a political slugfest between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP.
Mahapatra accused the Central government-owned DVC of releasing water and causing a "man-made flood" situation.
"The DVC deliberately released so much of water that it led to a flood-like situation. The Central government deliberately created this man-made flood situation in Bengal. We condemn such politics," Mahapatra told reporters after his visit to Howrah.
BJP state spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya termed the allegations "baseless".
"Before making such allegations, the TMC government should know why the water was released.
There must be a logic behind DVC releasing the water.
The fact is the state government has failed to conduct relief and rescue operations properly and are now blaming others," he said.
The DVC on Saturday said the storage facilities at Panchet and Maithon dams have reached their capacities due to heavy inflow of water from upstream Jharkhand, and discharge under such circumstances was "unavoidable".
A DVC official stated that the corporation released 5.43 lakh cusec of water till Tuesday evening since July 31.
Water discharge is regulated by Damodar Valley Reservoir Regulation Committee, which has a representative from the state government, the official said.
Teams of NDRF and SDRF, along with the state administration, are involved in the relief and rescue operation.