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Govt counts cost of rain rage

Calcutta, Oct. 10: The government today said the rain that lashed south Bengal had wreaked havoc on crops and estimated the damage at Rs 604.95 crore.

Relief minister Hafiz Alam Sairani said seven persons had so far died in the districts due to heavy rain and 4,730 families were shifted to about 140 relief camps and other places.

About 3,000 families were shifted from East and West Midnapore districts alone, the minister said. However, it was learnt that 50,000 people were marooned in Sabang in West Midnapore.

Sairani said he had informed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the crop damage and the overall situation.

“The chief minister has asked the Damodar Valley Corporation and other dam and barrage authorities not to discharge water without giving at least a 10-hour intimation to the district administration concerned,” he said. Reports indicate that the DVC has decided to release 50,000 cusecs of water tonight and this may affect Hooghly and Howrah districts.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said a special control room has been opened at Writers’ Buildings to monitor distribution of medicines and treatment of patients in the affected areas.

The relief minister said rain in the last four days had inundated 2.30 lakh hectares of land and damaged aus and aman paddy, pulses, oilseeds and a wide variety of vegetables, including those being cultivated for winter.

Director of agriculture Dhabaleswar Konar said crops were mostly damaged in East and West Midnapore, North and South 24-Parganas, Murshidabad, Hooghly, Malda and North Dinajpur.

“Farmers had sown aman and other crops over 22 lakh hectares of land. Of this, those on 2.30 lakh hectares were damaged. However, if the water recedes fast, perhaps we can save some of the crops,” Konar said. Several betel plantations have also been destroyed, he said.

Preparations were on to implement the new agriculture policy and, accordingly, farmers were being educated on “alternative” crops. “This will now also be delayed,” he said.

West Midnapore was the worst affected with corps in over 69,000 hectares being destroyed, said Konar. The estimated damage in the district is Rs 180 crore, he added.

Crops in more than 60,000 hectares were destroyed in East Midnapore, he added.

Agriculture minister Kamal Guha will review the situation at a meeting at Raigunge in North Dinajpur on October 14.

Sairani said the relief department is collaborating with the civil defence for rescue and relief operations. Representatives of NGOs had met Sairani and expressed their willingness to help the government in relief operations. He said he had spoken over phone with Ramakrishna Mission authorities who are also eager to help.

Murshidabad district magistrate Monaj Panth said tonight he had sought reports from block development officers of all the 26 blocks regarding damage.

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