A gale that hit northeastern districts of Bihar close to the borders with West Bengal and Nepal has claimed at least 35 lives, officials said on Wednesday.
The toll could rise after a proper assessment is made, the officials said. Close to 100 persons were reportedly injured.
The storm hit several parts of north Bihar, uprooting thousands of trees, snapping power lines and destroying thousands of huts and crops of maize, wheat and pulses as well as mangos.
Purnia, Madhepura, Saharsa, Madhubani, Darbhanga and Samastipur districts bore the brunt of the storm.
RK Giri, the India Meteorological Department’s director in Patna, said wind speeds of around 65 km an hour were recorded during the storm.
The destruction was greatest in Baisi and Dagarua blocks of Purnia district, 320 km east of the state capital Patna. At least 26 people died in these areas when uprooted trees and electric poles fell on them.
“The worst hit is Dagarua, where 17 persons were killed and over 50 injured,” said an official.
Officials said 83 injured people were admitted to Purnia hospital since Tuesday night. “The injured are still coming as several houses collapsed in the interiors,” said civil surgeon SN Jha.
Seven deaths were reported by the administration of Madhepura district. Two more people died in Katihar.
Vyas Ji, principal secretary of the disaster management department, said: "We have varying numbers on the deaths but at least 32 persons have reportedly died. Purnia and Madhepura, besides parts of Katihar, have been hit. We have undertaken a full review while despatching the State Disaster Response Force for immediate relief.”
Chief minister Nitish Kumar said Rs 4 lakh would be paid as compensation to the kin of the dead. He flew to the storm-hit areas in a helicopter to assess the damage.
Kumar said the cyclonic winds had caused immense damage to people and cattle, the full extent of which was not currently known. He directed the state disaster management relief force to take up relief work immediately.
Vyas Ji said the chief minister would confer with the prime minister on the damage and the relief expected by the state.
The devastation is another blow to Bihar, which is already struggling with nature’s vagaries this year. The disaster management department has pegged losses caused by unseasonal rains in March-April at Rs 1000 crore.