Forty-two persons were killed and over 100 injured as cyclonic storms hit Seemanchal belt of Purnia and Katihar and Kosi region of Madhepura and Saharsa on Tuesday night.
Though the state government is yet to assess the extent of damage to crops, Purnia suffered maximum damage where 12 blocks are worst-affected.
Spoke to Bihar CM @NitishKumarJDU ji on situation arising due to storms in various parts of the State. Assured all assistance from Centre.
Farmers of Kosi-Seemanchal belt are the latest to be affected by the devastation wreaked by unseasonal rain and heavy winds just around the time Rabi crops’ harvesting and arrival in the markets.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who conducted aerial survey of affected areas, said: “Crops at most places are flattened. We have spoken to Union Minister Rajnath Singh who assured all possible help. We will get back to him after final assessment of the damage. We have announced Rs 4 lakh each to next of kin of the dead.”
Though the Met department had predicted hailstorm, there was no prediction of cyclonic storms that flattened maize and wheat crops at a speed of 150-200 km per hour, the CM said. He added that the government had been taking holistic assessment of crop damage in entire state this season and had already worked out a Rs 1,760 crore package. It, however, does not include cyclonic storm damages. Over all, 12 districts were affected.
The cyclonic storm hit Purnia, Katihar, Madhepura and Saharsa from roughly 9.15 pm to 11 pm. “It is not the rain, but the winds, which were at 150-200 km/hour for just an hour or so that caused damage. There has been largescale lodging (flattening) of standing maize crop. Apart from yield loss, there will also be quality deterioration of the grain, affecting prices ,” said Pintu Singh, a trader at Purnia’s Gulabbagh mandi.
The four districts, along with Khagaria, Bhagalpur and Samastipur, constitute Bihar’s corn (maize) belt. Farmers in these districts harvest yields of over 50 quintal per acre, which are the highest in India and comparable to that of the US, Argentina or Brazil.
“Most of the standing crop in the four districts (Katihar, Purnia, Madhepura and Saharsa) have been flattened. And unfortunately, we are just at the start of harvesting and barely a tenth of the crop has arrived in the markets,” said a representative of a leading multinational seed firm.
The damage to the crop in other districts may not be that much, he added.
Besides corn, large areas under wheat, mangoes, banana and litchi grown in the belt have also suffered damage.
The current thunderstorms, descending from Nepal, are said to be a violent version of what are called Kaal Baisakhi that are common around April and May. These localised thunderstorms in the Gangetic plains are associated with strong squalls and torrential rain.
But this time, it is the severity just when the crop was maturing or ripe that has taken a toll.