The Bihar government on Wednesday sounded an alarm over at least 53 drowning deaths across the state during the four-day Chhath Puja that concluded on Monday.
The figure could shoot up further due to the delay in reporting the incidents.
According to the state disaster management department (DMD), the deaths occurred at different rivers, ponds and water bodies, including Chhath ghats along them, between October 28 and 31.
Around 42 out of the total 53 deaths occurred on October 30 and 31, the last two days of the festival dedicated to the Sun God, during which devotees offer prayers and oblations while standing in the water bodies.
“Some of the 53 deaths occurred while performing Chhath rituals and some were not during the rituals. However, we are counting all of them as Chhath drownings,” DMD officer on special duty Avinash Kumar told The Telegraph.
Worried over the large number of drowning deaths, chief minister Nitish Kumar has called for an immediate probe into the incidents. The concerned district magistrates have been asked to submit their reports at the earliest.
“Chief minister Nitish Kumar has expressed grief over so many drowning deaths during the four-day Chhath festival and has expressed grief. He has also directed the concerned district administration to provide Rs 4 lakh ex gratia payment immediately to the dependent of each of the deceased,” a statement from the chief minister’s office said.