An undetermined number of passengers went missing after a bus in which they were traveling was caught in flash floods at Phulkusuma in Bankura district, about 175 km to the west of Kolkata.
The incident happened around 1:30pm on Thursday at a spot near the border of West Midnapore and Bankura districts.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee claimed at the state secretariat that four to five passengers might have slipped from the vehicle, but there were no definitive statements from anybody about the number of total passengers in the bus or the number missing.
However, unconfirmed reports claimed the bus was carrying about 80 passengers and Gholam Ali Ansari, the district magistrate of Bankura, said at 5pm that 43 passengers have been rescued. All the passengers were rescued by locals.
"A total of 43 passengers have been rescued so far. They have also been treated at the local health center. However, the rains are disrupting rescue work," said the district magistrate.
Ansari also said they have not been able to find anybody.
The administration rushed local police and a disaster management team from Asansol though the roads leading to the disaster site was cut off due to overflowing streams.
The bus was going from Jhargram (in West Midanpore district) to Durgapur (in Burdwan district), a distance of about 160 km.
On the way it has to cross a village called Phulkusuma under Barikul police station.
When the bus reached this spot, a low lying zone, there was a flash flood in the Bhairobanki river that washed away the vehicle. (This river joins the Kangsabati in West Midnpore).
The river is a rain-fed one, and in monsoon flash floods often occurs in these rivers that have lost navigability totally.
Whenever it rains heavily during the monsoons the water comes rushing with great force down the surface of such rivers that run through undulating topography of this region.
It has been raining, severely in some areas, over the past two days after a low pressure formed in the Bay of Bengal.
"We are not in a position to comment on the number of passengers in the bus. About 15 passengers have so far been rescued. Our first priotiry is to save the passengers," said Mukesh Kumar, the superintendent of Bankura police told HT an hour after the incident.
"The state government would reward the locals who participated in the rescue efforts," said Mamata at the state secretariat.