Tornado kills 129

Squalls sweep West Bengal, Bihar; survivors seek relief

By Alok Kumar Gupta, J Basu
Published: Saturday 15 May 2010

a tornado accompanied by thunder squall hit parts of northern Bengal and Bihar on the night of April 13 reviving memories of cyclone Aila last year. The meteorological department gave no warning; 129 persons died when the winds blowing at 120-130 km per hour caught them unawares. The storm was severe for half an hour. The two state authorities said 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. The number may double as the damage is yet to be assessed.

In Bihar, the tornado left a trail of devastation in five districts including Purnia and Araria.

Many people died in their houses as the kuccha walls and roofs fell on them. Mohammed Nazmul, a resident of Miliktola village in Purnia district, watched his house collapse on his wife and infant child. He had rushed out with five of his children but could not return to save his wife.

In West Bengal, two districts were affected. Regional meteorological director, G C Debnath said the storm was “probably a severe thunder squall embedded with tornado vortex.” Asked why his department could not predict the storm, Debnath said: “These types of thunderstorms generate very quickly and are hard to predict; moreover the area was beyond the 250-km effective range of our radar.” The radar is in Kolkata and the affected districts—North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur—are beyond its range.

In Bihar too, the Met office could not predict the storm. “We do not have equipments to predict tornadoes. We are in the process of installing a radar,” said S I Laskar, acting director at the Patna meteorological office.

Most people who survived the storm have not received relief material. On April 15, a truck carrying tarpaulin was looted by villagers in Karandighi block of North Dinajpur district. “Some people in the area got relief material; none came my way,” said Anup Hansda, a resident of Karandighi. Area member of Parliament, Deepa Das Munshi, of Congress said the distribution of relief material was grossly inadequate.

The state’s civil defence minister from cpi , Srikumar Mukherjee, admitted some people may not have received relief material. “That’s mainly due to lack of information available with the administration,” said Mukherjee. The state disaster management secretary M L Meena said he had ordered all block development officers to prepare detailed reports on the damage within a week. An estimated 700,000 people in 1,000 villages are affected.

Relief shortage was reported in Bihar also. Villagers in Raniganj block of Araria thrashed block officials on April 19 as they had not received rations.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.