Siliguri/Kolkata, July 2 (IANS) Relief and rescue operations continued in full swing on Thursday in the landslide-hit Darjeeling hills of West Bengal as central and state governments reached out to the affected people, officials said.
A string of landslides triggered by heavy rainfall killed at least 30 people and over a dozen were still missing, they said.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the day visited the affected areas, and assured all assistance for the rehabilitation of the people.
“Our priority is to ensure effective rescue operation. We will do whatever is necessary. We have to work with the state government,” said Rijiju, who reached the region on Wednesday following instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The government is going to provide relief for the damage as well as rehabilitate. We are planning to construct highways here but we need to discuss that in detail before implementing,” he added.
The state administration has confirmed at least 30 bodies have been recovered so far, but at least a dozen people were still missing.
“Till Wednesday, 30 bodies were recovered,” district disaster management official Anindya Sarkar said.
Along with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the state government’s disaster management, the Indian Army too has deployed two task forces for rescue and relief work.
Army teams carrying relief equipment, including boats and life jackets, have been deployed since Wednesday in Jalpaiguri district, which has been inundated following incessant heavy rainfall and release of water from the Teesta barrage, a defence spokesperson said in Kolkata.
Large parts of Jalpaiguri district are already submerged, affecting over 5,000 people. The administration has issued a red alert with rivers flowing over the danger mark.
The local meteorological department said there will be no respite from the inclement weather, and forecast continued widespread and heavy rainfall for two more days.
Mamata Banerjee, who has been camping in the region since Wednesday night, visited relief camps on Thursday.
While the state government has set up three community kitchens, Banerjee said the central government has been urged to order the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to undertake a special survey of Mirik, the worst affected area, where at least 22 deaths were reported.
“Distributed relief material and visited community centres where affected families have been lodged. Also visited the spot where landslide was worst and met families of victims and those affected,” the chief minister tweeted.
The chief minister also handed cheques to the affected families.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs.4 lakh each to the kin of the dead and Rs.1.25 lakh to the injured.
The central government as well as the autonomous hill council, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), have declared Rs.2 lakh as compensation, respectively.