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Freak storm kills 96 in Bihar,Bengal

A freak storm preceded by hurricane-force winds killed nearly a hundred people in four blocks of North Dinajpur district in West Bengal and Araria....

A freak storm preceded by hurricane-force winds killed nearly a hundred people in four blocks of North Dinajpur district in West Bengal and Araria,Purnea and Kishanganj districts of Bihar around midnight on Tuesday. While 31 people were killed and more than 50 injured in West Bengal,the toll was around 65 in Bihar. The figure is likely to rise as rescuers are still clearing debris of flattened houses in both states.

The three districts of Bihar were battered by winds of speed up to 125 km per hour for nearly a minute followed by hail and a thunderstorm that wreaked havoc within 45 minutes. Araria and Purnea were worst-hit with 36 and 29 deaths each,followed by seven deaths in Kishanganj and two in Supaul. Most victims belonged to Forbesganj in Araria,Baisi and Amaur in Purnea. Disaster Management Secretary Vyasji said the storm had hit the entire Seemanchal region bordering West Bengal. Araria SP S S Thakur said the police had to shift 650 inmates to Purnea jail after an old wall of Araria jail collapsed in the cyclone.

On Wednesday morning,as news of the destruction trickled in,Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar rushed to the area and announced ex gratia relief of Rs 1.5 lakh to the family of each victim. He directed the local administration to distribute the money within 48 hours. The CM conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas and asked the administration to start rehabilitating the affected families and repairing cyclone-hit homes.

In neighbouring West Bengal,the winds and the subsequent rains uprooted trees and destroyed hundreds of houses. Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti said most of the victims were caught under buildings that caved in.

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Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressed concern at the disaster and deputed Minister for Tourism and Small Scale Industries Manab Mukherjee and Principal Secretary,Disaster Management,Madan Lal Meena to the area. The government has rushed relief material — 30,000 tarpaulins,1 lakh tonne of rice,dry food and clothes — to Karandighi,Hematabad,Kaliagunj and Raigunj blocks.

According to the district administration,while 19 people died at Karandighi,six were killed at Raigunj,three in Kaliagunj and two in Hematabad. A death has been reported from Itahar too.

According to a primary estimate,more than one lakh families were affected by the storm. Most of the people have taken shelter in schools and government offices.

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The district administration said there was no warning of any storm and they were totally caught off guard. But Regional Met Centre Director G C Debnath called the storm a “severe nor’wester” which was almost impossible to predict. “Our experts will visit the affected areas to ascertain the nature of the storm,” he added.

First published on: 15-04-2010 at 02:14 IST
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