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New Delhi: Flash floods during idol immersion in Mal river in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district claimed the lives of at least eight people while several others went missing after they were swept away.

According to news agency PTI, the incident took place around 8.30 pm on Wednesday when hundreds of people gathered on the banks of the Mal river to participate in the immersion ceremony on the occasion of Vijayadashami. Four of the dead are women.

“All of a sudden, flash floods struck and people were swept away. So far, eight bodies have been recovered and we have rescued around 50 people,” Jalpaiguri District Magistrate Moumita Godara told PTI.

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She informed that 13 people, who received minor injuries, were admitted to a nearby hospital.

“The search and rescue operations are underway and being carried out by teams of the NDRF, SDRF, police, and local administration. The search operations have started downstream,” she said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over and offered condolences “to those who lost their loved ones.”

Meanwhile, State Backward Class Welfare Minister Bulu Chik Baraik, the MLA from the Mal Assembly constituency, feared that the death toll may increase.

“I was present at the spot when the incident happened. Several people were swept away and the water current was very strong. Hundreds of people were present when the incident took place. Several are still missing,” he said, as per PTI.

Baraik and senior TMC leaders rushed to the spot to review the relief and rescue operations.

Suvendu Adhikari, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, urged the state administration to step up the rescue efforts.

“Saddening news coming from Jalpaiguri as flash flood in Mal river during Durga Puja immersion swept away many people. Few deaths have been reported till now. I request the DM of Jalpaiguri & @chief_west to urgently step up rescue efforts & provide assistance to those in distress,” he tweeted.

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