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Dry taps in morning panic
- Howrah queues near tube wells

Howrah, Sept. 8: Howrah today woke up to dry taps and panic quickly set in as residents realised they had been drinking water from a reservoir that had a decomposed body floating in it.

The Padmapukur treatment plant, from where the body was fished out last night, supplies about 30 million gallons of water daily to 44 of the town’s 50 wards. The supply was suspended last night.

Authorities today said there was no way of finding out to what extent the water was contaminated as the bacteria-testing machine at the treatment plant had been out of order for the past three days. Mayor Gopal Mukherjee said there were no reports of illness.

A forensic expert has warned that coliform organisms can be present in water where a body has decomposed. Drinking such water can cause gastro-enteritis, lung infection and fever. If not controlled, it can cause death, he said.

He added the standard dose of chlorine isn’t enough. “Only boiling the water for at least 20 minutes can purify it.”

The civic body today used two heavy-duty pumps — one of these borrowed from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation — to drain the reservoir. The task took over 14 hours from 10pm yesterday. The reservoir was disinfected and supply of chlorinated water resumed from 4pm in the south-central part of the town.

“The situation is expected to become normal from tonight,” the mayor said.

In the morning, residents of the 44 wards waited in long queues in front of tube wells.

“I rode two kilometres on my bicycle from Amtala Phanri for water. There was no water at home, so I could not send my son to school,” said Rajkumar Giri.

The civic body sent distress calls to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality and the Rishra Municipality, which sent some 15 water tankers.

But they proved inadequate. “We did not have a drop of water this morning and bought five litres of bottled water to drink and to cook,” said Jayanti Mondal, a housewife.

The primary post-mortem report on the body suggests external injury marks. A murder case has been filed, said Howrah superintendent of police Niraj Kumar Singh.

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