At least eight people drowned during a flash flood in the Mal river in north Bengal's Jalpaiguri district on Wednesday night when a large number of people had gathered on the river bank for idol immersion on the last day of the five-day religious festival, officials said.
"Eight persons, including a child, were killed and 13 others were injured. More than 50 persons were rescued. There is no information of anyone missing. Search operation is still on. It is still raining," said Moumita Godara Basu, district magistrate of Jalpaiguri district.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences for the tragedy.
"Anguished by the mishap during Durga Puja festivities in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones: PM @narendramodi," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted early on Thursday.
The incident happened at Malbazar around 9:15pm. Like most of the rivers in the Dooars region, Mal, too, gets flooded when there is heavy rain in the Himalayan foothills. It was raining heavily in the Kalimpong hills when the accident took place. The devotees were not aware of the rise in water level in the upper stream of the river.
Officials said that a large number of people had gathered on the river bank and due to the flash flood, the level of water rose from six inches to 3.5feet within a few seconds.
The victims have all been identified.
The flood water washed away several vehicles in which the idols were carried. Several houses were also damaged.
Rajen Murmu a local resident said "Had there been a warning from the administration about heavy rainfall in the hills and the possibility of rise in water level, the mishap could have been averted."