Special Correspondent

There have been allegations that party affiliations are determining the amount of relief

Kolkata: The death toll in the floods that have ravaged West Bengal’s Purbo and Paschim Medinipur districts has risen to 25. More than 2.2 million people have been affected. Road and rail links with the southern States have been severely disrupted.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reviewed on Friday the situation in the two districts with senior officials in Kolaghat in Purbo Medinipur district and discussed ways to step up rescue and relief operations.

“Fifteen persons have been killed in Paschim Medinipur where 17 blocks have been hit and 1.6 million affected,” Mr. Bhattacharjee later said. “Another 10 people have died in Purbo Medinipur district.”

There will be no discrimination in the distribution of relief, he said. There have been allegations from certain political quarters that party affiliations were determining the amount of relief to be doled out to flood victims.

The Army and Air Force were involved in rescue and relief operations and foodstuff was being airdropped, the Chief Minister said.

822 relief camps

“In Paschim Medinipur district, the worst affected areas are Sabong and Narayangarh. At least two lakh people have been sheltered in 822 relief camps,” he said. Thousands of houses had been destroyed.

Nearly 2.5-lakh flood victims had taken shelter in relief camps in Purbo Medinipur where there were reports of fresh areas being inundated. “Fifteen blocks in the district had been hit by the floods and the situation in six of them is serious.”

Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said the flood situation continued to be alarming. The State’s allocation for relief had been raised to Rs.17 crore and steps were being taken to ensure that it was distributed at the level of each of the villages affected.

Though water had receded in some of the areas in Pashcim Medinipur with no further rainfall, the situation in Purbo Medinipur had taken a turn for the worse in some areas, submerging vast tracts of land.

In all 54 speedboats had been pressed into service.

The IAF’s Eastern Air Command carried out extensive flood relief operations from its air base in Kaliakunda, Defence spokesperson Group Captain R.K. Das said. Fifteen tonnes of food packets were dropped from MI-17 and Chetak helicopters in the two districts. Army personnel distributed nearly six tonnes of foodstuff in Purbo Medinipur, he added.

Train services to south India continued to be severely disrupted with the South Eastern Railway authorities cancelling 13 long distance trains, a senor official said. The Howrah-Chennai Mail was among the three trains to be diverted.

Initial restoration of the East Coast railway link that had been severed will take at least 15 days and the railway bridge between the Narayangarh and Bakhrabad stations in Paschim Medinipur had been badly damaged.

The State government will be arranging for buses to bring back from Orissa stranded tourists belonging to West Bengal.