A rickshaw puller walks through a flooded street in Kolkata, India, on Sunday. Image Credit: AP

Kolkata: The flood situation in south Bengal turned grim on Sunday as more than two million people in 5,600 villages across 12 districts were affected by the heavy rains.

“Several districts — including North and South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Burdwan and Howrah — have been severely affected. Disaster management teams are working on a war [-like] footing,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told media.

Banerjee, who is already touring districts to monitor the relief operations, added: “The situation is getting worse with every passing day as more and more areas are getting inundated. So far 966 relief camps have been set up all across the affected districts, sheltering 1.18 million affected people. As per our initial reports, 180,000 houses have been damaged and crop was lost in over 210,000 hectares [518,921 acres] due to the floods.”

“We have opened 124 medical camps and the government is working on a war footing,” the chief minister added.

The death toll crossed more than 50 after seven more deaths, including those of four children, were reported from various districts. Buildings with weak structures collapsed in several areas, including in the city, due to the overnight downpour.

An elderly man was crushed to death after a portion of his house collapsed in Kolkata. A two-year-old was killed in Murshidabad district when a wall collapsed. A similar death was reported in district of Bankura.

In addition to the chief minister, several other ministers are touring the districts to coordinate relief operations and ensure that relief material reaches the ones most affected. “The state is taking utmost care to ensure that the relief material reaches the needy. All possible steps are being provided to ensure that people get the desired help in the[ir] hour of crisis,” said an official of the state home department.

However, reaching the affected areas has become a challenge as both state and national highways (NH) in several districts are damaged, affecting traffic movement. While traffic on the NH60 was severely affected in Birbhum, officials in Murshidabad stopped traffic on the state highway connecting Kandi and Salar after the road was flooded.

“Roads have been severely damaged in several areas and it is getting difficult to reach the areas. Boats had to be deployed to send relief material in various areas,” said an officer in charge of disaster management.

However, on Sunday Kolkata limped back to normality even though several areas still remained inundated. “There is no waterlogging in most of the areas, but certain areas are so low-lying that it could not be cleared until Sunday evening,” said Tarak Singh, Mayor in-Council (drainage) member.

Meanwhile, the meteorological department has predicted more rainfall in the area until Tuesday. “the low pressure is moving very slowly, and it is expected to give more rainfall to the area for the next 48 hours,” said G.C. Debnath, director of the India Meteorology Department.