Eight dead and several injured by ‘sudden’ flash flood during idol immersion in India

About 70 people have been rescued by the disaster response team, says West Bengal chief minister

Namita Singh
Thursday 06 October 2022 12:30 BST
Screengrab from a video showing people being swept away during a flash flood in West Bengal on Wednesday, 5 October 2022
Screengrab from a video showing people being swept away during a flash flood in West Bengal on Wednesday, 5 October 2022 (Screengrab/ANI)

At least eight people have died after being swept away in a flash flood in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.

The incident took place around 8.30pm on Wednesday, when hundreds of people had gathered near the Mal river in Jalpaiguri district during the idol immersion of Hindu goddess Durga, concluding the end of 10 days of festivities that mark the deity’s victory against shape-shifting demigod Mahishasura.

“All of a sudden, flash floods struck and people were swept away,” said Jalpaiguri district magistrate Moumita Godara. “So far, eight bodies have been recovered and we have rescued around 50 people,” she added.

In an update on Thursday afternoon, the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee said around 70 people were saved in the rescue efforts, with no reports of missing people.

Among those killed, four are women and two children, including an eight-year-old boy and a girl, aged 13, reported The Hindu. Thirteen people have been hospitalised in Malbazar Super Speciality Hospital following minor injuries while several are still missing, with the body count expected to rise.

“The search and rescue operations are being carried out by teams of the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, police and the local administration. Search operations have started downstream,” she said.

State backward-class welfare minister Bulu Chik Baraik, a lawmaker from Mal constituency, “was present at the spot when the incident happened”.

“Several people were swept away and the water current was very strong,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India. “Hundreds of people were present when the incident took place. Several are still missing.”

Eyewitnesses claimed there were no rescue teams at the spot at the time of the incident, with visuals showing people struggling against the river current and some clinging to others to save themselves from drowning.

Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences as he announced a compensation of Rs 200,000 (£2,169) for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 (£541) for those injured.

“Anguished by the mishap during Durga Puja festivities in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones," the prime minister’s office quoted Mr Modi as saying.

Ms Banerjee also announced a compensation equal to that announced by the prime minister for the victims of the flash flood.

“A tragic flash flood hit the Mal River in Jalpaiguri as Durga Visarjan was underway. 8 people lost their lives, I pray that their families find strength & solace in these difficult times,” said Ms Banerjee.

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