Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said heavy rains have claimed 39 lives so far, and affected about seven lakh people leaving many homeless, and asked concerned officials to ensure prompt rescue, relief and restoration work. Announcing a compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of those who died, Banerjee said the deaths were caused either by lightning, wall collapse, electrocution, snake bite or drowning since the onset of heavy to very heavy rains.
She further said that so far about seven lakh people were affected while over 10,000 houses were damaged fully and about 58,000 houses partially. The Chief Minister, who cut short her London visit and returned here yesterday following the cyclone threat, earmarked responsibilities of all her cabinet colleagues and secretaries during the meeting for better coordination and prompt rescue, relief and restoration works. "All measures have been taken to rescue those affected, to provide them with relief materials and restore normalcy sooner as the water recedes," she said, adding that her government was fully geared to save people from this disaster.
"Since rain due to deep depression and high tides will still continue, I have asked my cabinet colleagues and the entire administration to be on alert," she said. On whether Centre would be asked to declare it as natural calamity, Banerjee said, "Such expenses come from the National Disaster Relief Fund and State Disaster Relief Fund. Also we are yet to assess the extent of total loss and damages which will definitely be huge." Banerjee also cautioned that there should not be any politics in relief works.
"My experience says during such hours of crisis, some people create problems. We should stand beside those affected and any politics in relief works will never be allowed to take place," she said. Officials were asked to ensure that there is no disturbance during relief works by the state government and the affected are not disturbed, she cautioned. Officials have also been asked to send reports of loss and damages as assessed on a daily basis to the Centre, she said, adding, a complete report on loss and damages would be sent to the Centre after the situation is restored and assessment completed. Banerjee also asked the officials to ensure that release of water from different barrages due to heavy rains in the high catchment area is controlled and done with prior notice to local residents. The Ministers of the departments concerned have also been asked to arrange for restoration of national highways, state highways, rural roads, electricity line and other infrastructure as soon as water recedes.
Over one lakh hectare crop area under Howrah, Nadia, Birbhum, West Midnapore and Burdwan were also damaged, Disaster Management department officials said. Adequate relief materials have also been sent to all affected districts, the officials added.