Flood situation grim; toll rises to 25

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Kolkata, Jun 20(UNI) The flood situation in West Bengal remained grim today as the toll pushed up to 25 while 2.2 million people remained affected in East and West Midnapore districts.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited relief camps in the affected areas, while army jawans, joined by Indian Airforce personnel, continued operations to rescue the marooned people and helicopters were airdropping food for the victims.

"The number of deaths, related to the flood, has increased to 25 so far. Four columns of army jawans--two in each district-- are engaged in rescue work," Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said.

He said the state government had so far sanctioned Rs. 17 crore for relief work.

Dr. Dasgupta said hundreds of villages remained cut-off while bridges were washed away and roads and railway tracks submerged by the swirling waters in West and East Midnapore districts.

Defence spokesman R K Das said thousands of people were taking shelter on rooftops and elevated areas but were running short of food and drinking water.

A statement, issued by the Eastern Air Command said 15 tons of food packets had been air dropped by Mi-17 and Chetak helicopters in East and West Midnapore districts during the day. More than 280 persons had been rescued by the ground staff of air force using Gemini speed boat.

The railway connectivity between Kolkata and Orissa remained disrupted following overtopping of tracks by flood water. A number of long distance trains had remained cancelled, Railway sources said.

Transport Minister Subhash Chakraborty said the state government would engage buses and start rescuing from Monday next the tourists, who remained stranded in Puri.

The flood was triggered by incessant rains resulting in the surge in the local rivers. The situation was aggravated by heavy discharge of water from reservoirs from the adjoining state of Jharkhand, which also experienced heavy rains.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee instructed officials to step up flood relief measures in East and West Midnapore districts and held meetings with representatives of political parties and government officials to review the situation.

He informed that 2.5 lakh people had been rescued so far and housed in 144 relief camps.

UNI KDG ADG DB1915

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