Storm killed 120 people in Bengal, Bihar and Assam


A ferocious storm ravaged parts of West Bengal and Bihar, leaving 120 people dead, destroying thousands of houses and snapping power and communication lines overnight, officials said Wednesday.


At least 39 people were killed in West Bengal's North Dinajpur district while in neighbouring Bihar's border districts of Araria, Purnia, Kishanganj and Supaul the toll was 77 and also in Assam where four persons perished in one district in the storm that struck at midnight last night.


The high velocity storm, which lasted almost an hour, uprooted hundreds of trees, caused widespread damage to crops and killed a large number of cattle head in both states.


West Bengal Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee described the situation as "very grave". More than 50,000 houses were destroyed in the state.


The storm, with wind speeds of up to 120 km an hour, broke out around 10.30 p.m. Tuesday and swept through four blocks of North Dinajpur district. Eighteen people died in the worst affected Karandighi block. Jalpaiguri was also hit hard.


"The ferocity was such that it twisted trees. That is why I feel it was more than a mere norwester (a storm common in this part of the country)," said Mukherjee, who hails from Dinajpur.


"Not only mud houses, even pucca houses did not escape its wrath. There is no power supply. Land telephone and mobiles are not working. We are trying to maintain a semblance of contact with district officials through police wireless," the minister said over the phone.


In Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar confirmed the deaths of 49 people in the violent storm that lashed the state.


"We have got information till now that 29 people were killed in Purnia, 18 in Araria and one each in Kishanganj and Supaul," Nitish Kumar told mediapersons after an aerial survey of affected areas Wednesday evening.


Principal Secretary (Disaster Management Department) Vayasji told IANS: "A storm with high wind velocity hit the entire Seemanchal region, including Araria, Purnia and Kishanganj, and badly disturbed normal life."


"Thousands of people have been rendered homeless and many thatched houses severely destroyed," he said.


Araria District Superintendent of Police S.S. Thakur said an old wall of Araria jail collapsed following which "police decided to shift 650 inmates to Purnia jail".


Bihar has announced Rs.1.5 lakh compensation for the next of kin of those killed. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said: "I have asked district officials to provide relief to affected people soon."


With inputs from 14 April 2010 / IANS / PTI