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Posted at: Aug 21, 2017, 7:49 PM; last updated: Aug 21, 2017, 8:39 PM (IST)

Floods kill 152 in Bengal; breach 26 river embankments in Assam

Shubhadeep Choudhury and Bijayshankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Kolkata/Guwahati, August 21

One hundred fifty-two people have died in West Bengal in the recent floods, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters at the flood-affected Malda district.

Banerjee has gone to Malda to see for herself the damage caused by floodwater.

Banerjee said the 152 dead included people who suffered snakebites. 

The reptiles seek higher ground during flood, and people taking shelter in such areas getting bitten by poisonous snakes is a common occurrence. 

Banerjee claimed that the primary reason for flooding of Malda and its neighbouring districts was breaching of the embankment of the Ganges in Bihar’s Purnea district.

“We suffer both ways. In summer, when there is scarcity of water, embankment is erected and we are deprived of water. In the rainy season, embankment is cut open and we get flooded”, Banerjee said. The chief minister said that estimated loss caused by the recent flood in the state would be around Rs 14000 crore. “Our loss is no less than Assam or Gujarat. I have nothing against the Centre giving relief to Assam and Gujarat. It is good that they are getting help from the Centre. But we should be supported by the centre too to tide over this calamity. The death of 152 people is not a small thing,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee, who also visited flood-affected districts of South

Dinajpur and North Dinajpur and met the affected people, assured them about state government assistance to them. According to the Chief Minister, 11 districts of the state have been badly affected by flood. Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts in north Bengal have been affected. In South Bengal, Bankura, Birbhum, Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly have been affected.

The chief minister had said that in South Bengal, flood was caused by water released by Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). “The centre must undertake dredging work at DVC, Farakka and other barrages to prevent this situation in future,” Banerjee said.

Breached embankments

Floodwaters have breached as many as 26 river embankments in five districts of Assam this year, causing immense hardship to ordinary people besides devastating lives and property. The two waves of flood in the state so far claimed over 160 lives besides causing extensive damage to standing crop besides affecting altogether over 60 lakh people.

Assam’s water resources minister, Keshav Mahanta on Monday informed details about the embankments breached in 15 districts stated that the river island district of Majuli suffered maximum 10 breaches in embankments so far. The minister, however, said there was something suspicious about the breach and ordered two separate inquiries into it.

Mahanta said: “Two major waves of floods have hit the state this year so far and this has resulted in 26 breaches in embankments and dykes in 15 districts. Majuli suffered the highest number of breaches with 10 reported so far”.        

He said five of the 26 breached had already been plugged and the rest would be plugged soon as soon as the water receded. He said Ranganadi River which breached its embankment at Bogolijan causing devastation in Lakhimpur district, had been diverted by cutting a new channel.

 He claimed that the Hatimurah embankment was inspected by department officials on the evening of August 12 and no major threat was found, but “shockingly, it was breached a little after midnight that same day”.

 “I have already ordered two enquiries into the breach in my capacity. I have also written to the chief minister, requesting him to order another high-level enquiry. The breach occurred under mysterious circumstances. I suspect a conspiracy behind the breach,” Mahanta sadid. “No one found involved in any wrongdoing will be spared and if evidence against me is found, I won’t hesitate to resign,” he added.

 Several lakh people in entire Kaliabor were affected as water from Kolong river submerged the area following the breach in Hatimurah, leading to an unprecedented situation.

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