Floods in India's West Bengal leave 125 dead, millions marooned
The flood waters actually receded slightly Friday, allowing rescue workers to recover more bodies and adjust the death toll over the past five days from 64 Thursday night to 125.
According to state Food Minister Satya Ranjan Mahato, relief consisting of molasses, puffed and patted rice and plastic sheeting was being sent to the eight affected districts of Birbhum, Burdwan, Midnapore, Nadia, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur, Bankura and Howrah.
Sixty-nine people have died in Murshidabad alone, and 32 in Birbhum.
More than six million people have been affected by the flooding, and army helicopters continued air drops Friday to those cut off by the flood waters.
The situation had looked critical on Thursday after the sluice gates of at least three major rivers -- the Damodar, Mayurakshi and Ajoy -- had to be opened up to ease the pressure on reservoir dams.
The state government has asked the army for a second company of soldiers to help tackle the situation.
"Army boats and helicopters have doubled their efforts at rescue and relief operations, but more trained manpower is required," State Deputy Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said.
On Thursday, state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had admitted that the government was experiencing difficulty in coping with the crisis.
"The (flood) situation is very grim, and only the army can help us. We have no dearth of funds and material, but rescuing the marooned people is the prime concern now, and only the army can help in this matter," Basu said.
Official sources said the railway authorities were struggling to deal with tens of thousands of homeless people who had taken shelter on railway platforms and even inside trains.
"At least 10 trains stationed in the car sheds of various stations in Burdwan district have been occupied by villagers. The trains have turned into makeshift camps," said one local official who declined to be identified.
"People are cooking and sleeping inside the trains with their cattle and livestock," the official said.
Some 500,000 people have been lodged in official relief camps.
Basu has appealed to people to restrict spending on an upcoming religious festival and contribute to the flood relief fund instead.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/22/2000 05:04:40
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