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Cyclone toll 125, centre to send relief, assessment team (Roundup)

National,Politics, Sun, 31 May 2009 IANS

Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) The death toll in the havoc caused by Cyclone Aila rose to 125 Saturday, while there were reports of enteric diseases breaking out in the worst hit South 24 Parganas district.


The enteric diseases have already claimed one life in the district, a top official said.



'Delay in clearing of carcasses and shortage of drinking water may be the causes,' said District Magistrate Khalil Ahmed.



With sea water entering the villages, most tubewells are filled up with saline water, aggravating the drinking water crisis, he said.



West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said there were eight more deaths since Friday evening, taking the toll to 125.



Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee said the central government will send relief material for the cyclone victims, besides dispatching a team to assess the extent of devastation.



Speaking to a Bengali television news channel in New Delhi, Banerjee said the decision was taken at a meeting of the union cabinet Saturday.



She said that during the cabinet meeting, she had pointed to the sufferings of the cyclone victims and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given instructions to send relief material to West Bengal.



The prime minister also asked her to discuss the matter with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, said the Trinamool Congress chief.



'The three of us then sat together and decided that relief material will be sent immediately. But I have suggested that the relief be given directly to the district magistrates. If it is given to the state government, it will digest it and the victims won't get anything,' she added.



'The relief can then be distributed through the panchayats (village councils) as they work at the grassroots level,' she said.



The central government will also send a team of officials to assess the devastation and decide on a long-term financial package for the rehabilitation of the victims.



Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress ministers in the central government Saturday visited the cyclone-affected districts.



Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, Minister of State for Urban Development Sougata Roy and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting C.M. Jatua visited South 24 Parganas district.



Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed toured the devastated areas in Hooghly and Howrah districts, while Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari visited East Midnapore district.



Roy alleged that the Left Front government in the state had adopted a partisan attitude in relief distribution.



The cyclone tore through extensive parts of the state Monday levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction in 13 of the state's 19 districts.



Nearly 600,000 houses have been fully or partially damaged in the calamity which has affected over six million people.



South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts have been the worst-hit and hundreds of villages continued to be marooned with saltwater intrusion destroying the paddy crops.


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