The flood situation in five southern districts of West Bengal is serious with the death toll going up to three and 14.5 lakh people affected. More than 37,000 people have been rendered homeless.

Describing the situation as grim, State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said here on Wednesday that the situation in Hooghly and Howrah districts was particularly serious.

The floods were caused by a heavy discharge of water from the reservoirs of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) following heavy rain in the catchment areas. However, following requests by the State government, the outflow had been brought down to 1.1 lakh cusecs over the past two days, Mr. Dasgupta said.

In all, 236 relief camps have been set up in the affected districts to shelter the homeless.

According to Mr. Dasgupta, 80 speedboats and 296 personnel of the Civil Defence are conducting rescue operations. Air Force helicopters have also been requisitioned to drop dry rations in the inaccessible areas of Hooghly district.

The State has spent Rs. 10 crore for relief so far, and an additional Rs. 1 crore has been placed at the disposal of district authorities in the affected areas. Twelve thousand tonnes of dry rations, one lakh tarpaulin sheets and two lakh pouches of drinking water have been dispatched to the affected areas, Mr. Dasgupta said.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been apprised of the situation and the State government is in constant communication with the DVC authorities.

Minister for Disaster Management Mortaza Hossain and Minister of State for Civil Defence Srikumar Mukherjee will visit Hooghly and Howrah districts on Thursday to oversee the relief and rescue operations.

The flood situation turned serious after 3 lakh cusecs of water was let out from the DVC reservoirs on September 7. Heavy rain on Tuesday, caused by the depression over coastal West Bengal made matters worse.

The situation is slated to improve with the DVC reducing the daily release of water from its reservoirs in Jharkhand and the Regional Meteorological Centre predicting that the rain will abate. However, as of now, several rivers in the State are still flowing above danger levels, said State Disaster Management Secretary M. L. Meena.