The unusual spell of hailstorm and heavy rainfall that started more than a fortnight ago has claimed 28 lives in Maharashtra, officials said on Wednesday. Of the 28 districts that have been hit, Beed has seen the maximum number of casualties at five, followed by four deaths in Nagpur and three each in Solapur, Hingoli, and Nanded.
A total of 13.70 lakh hectares of cultivated land of the rabi crop season have been destroyed of which 12.71 lakh hectares are under grains and 98,473 hectares are under fruits. A total of 18,222 houses have been damaged either partially or completely, while 7,559 poultry birds and 1,621 farm animals have died, according to government figures.
Over and above the Union government’s fixed norms for relief and rehabilitation compensation package, the state has sought permission from the Election Commission of India to give other benefits to affected farmers such as additional loans, waiver of electricity bills etc. An official from the Relief and Rehabilitation department said the Commission is unlikely to grant this permission owing to election code of conduct.
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In terms of the area of cultivated land destroyed, the maximum damage has taken place in Nagpur district where 1.41 lakh hectares have been affected. Farmers cultivating grapes, oranges, mash melons and bananas have suffered maximum damages amongst all horticulture cultivation.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan along with Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam visited the Lonar taluka in Buldhana, Risod taluka in Washim, Darvah taluka in Yavatmal and Narkhed taluka in Nagpur. Lonar has seen devastation of tomato, wheat, gram and pomegranate harvest, while houses have been damaged to a large extent in Risod and over 350 sheep have died.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, hailstorms are likely to continue till Thursday. The state estimates it will need assistance worth over Rs 500 crore from the Centre as compensation to farmers. A government of India team arrived in the state on Wednesday to survey the damage.