Uday Kumar (20) was not at home when the earthquake hit. One of the two rooms of his house at Darbhanga district’s Chipalia hamlet of Bajitpur panchayat collapsed; father Nandkishore Yadav (60) escaped only because he was in the other room.
Yet, that was not enough for Kumar, on his way back after visiting one of his sisters. He lost control of the bike due to the tremors and fell, suffering a fatal head injury.
Bihar should not even go near lottery tickets this year. Even as its farmers counted their losses due to hailstorms in March-April, a cyclonic storm hit on April 21, killing 59. The earthquake came four days later: a total of 58 people have died in either the main quake or aftershocks while 275 have been injured.
According to the state’s Disaster Management department, 1067 houses partially collapsed in the quake while 113 have been destroyed completely; 66 huts were damaged.
Binda Devi (70) of Dagarsam village died while getting out of the house during tremors: part of the balcony of her single-storeyed house fell on her head, killing Devi instantly. It has already been a bad year for the landowning family, with their wheat crop decimated by the hailstorm. “We had harvested 60 quintals from out seven acres last year. This time, we barely managed 5.5 quintals,” said son Jagdish Sahu. Farmers do not venture to estimate the potential losses to their mango crop, which they say is “75 per cent” damaged.
Most deaths in Bihar due to the earthquake were scattered in its Northern region contiguous with Nepal: the elderly and young tripping over while trying to rush to open fields and wall collapses seem to be the main causes. Hari Thakur (65) of Bahadurpur block died on Monday evening when aftershocks hit the region. “My wife and children ran out of the house. Father was sitting near the house and ran to be clear of the walls. He tripped on some bamboo and fell, suffering a head injury,” said Jagannath Thakur, son.
The Thakurs will not suffer from the crop damage too, because they are landless. Nandkishore Yadav, on the other hand, has suffered crippling losses as a sharecropper. “I have had to spend money out of pocket to make nothing at all,” he said. Landless, Yadav works on a hectare-sized plot owned by an uppercaste in the village and gives the landowner half his harvest. Last year, he had harvested 14 quintals of wheat from the plot.
Bihar, which is still surveying damage from the cyclonic storm, lost more than 13 lakh hectares of agricultural crop to the hailstorm. Both weather disturbances affected over 19 lakh farmers. “The government has released Rs. 416 crore of the Rs. 1,764 crore relief it announced. From the reports coming in still, I believe we will end up spending over Rs. 2,000 in compensation,” said Vyasji, Principal Secretary in the department of Disaster Management.