A severe cyclonic storm ripped through 11 districts of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam at 125 km per hour, killing at least 96 people, injuring hundreds and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless after destroying more than 50,000 huts in a span of 40 minutes before midnight on Tuesday.
Officials said most of the people who died were women and children who were crushed to death when their huts caved. The storm was accompanied by hail and rain.
In Patna, meteorological department officer S.I. Laskar said the storm was an entirely local phenomenon due to excessive heat and humidity, which led to an unstable atmosphere. “It is quite normal in the pre-monsoon season,” he said, adding that chances of a recurrence were remote.
In terms of human casualties northern Bengal’s North Dinajpur district was the worst hit, with 39 people having died in the devastation.
At least 54 people were killed in four districts of neighbouring northeastern Bihar. Purnea was the worst hit, with 29 deaths. Twenty-five people died in Kishanganj, Araria, Katihar and Supaul.
Four persons were killed in Lower Assam’s Dhubri, Tinsukia, Sibsagar and Kamrup districts.
Unlike his counterparts in Bengal and Assam, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar rushed to Purnea with the state’s principal secretary (disaster management) to assess the situation and announce relief and rehabilitation measures.
Kumar said the state would give an ex-gratia amount of Rs 1.5 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to the bereaved families.
“I am deeply shocked to know that several people lost their lives in the cyclonic storm. I share their tragedy,” he said, announcing free treatment to the injured and immediate relief to the affected families. West
Bengal’s Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee, who was monitoring the relief operation from Kolkata, said 20,000 tarpaulins would be brought from nearby Malda district to shelter the homeless. But till Wednesday evening, the tarpaulins and other relief material did not reach places where they were needed the most.