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30 May 2018

Storm damages huts in 3 districts

A tree that was uprooted in the storm on Debpara Tea Estate in Banarhat, Jalpaiguri. Picture by Biplab Basak
TT, Raiganj/Alipurduar: A storm cut a swathe through five blocks of three districts in north Bengal on Monday evening, damaging over 1,500 huts and hundreds of acres of crops and uprooting electric polls.

The affected blocks are Malbazar, Matialli and Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district, Raiganj in North Dinajpur and Englishbazar in Malda.

A woman has died after a tree fell on a battery-operated rickshaw she was travelling home in Malda.

The storm has damaged over 200 houses in Raiganj block of North Dinajpur, leaving hundreds of people homeless. Villages under Barua, Kamlabari I and Bindol panchayats are the worst affected.

"We have sent relief materials to the affected people. Officials have been asked to visit them and make an assessment of the loss," said Anuradha Lama, the block development officer of Raiganj.

In Malda, the storm started around 9am and soon, electricity got snapped. Even on Tuesday evening, electricity was yet to be restored in some locations.

Anima Ghosh, 41, a resident of Puratuli, was moving in a battery-operated rickshaw through Running Room More near Malda Town station. Suddenly, a huge tree fell on the rickshaw and she died on the spot. Excavators were engaged on Tuesday to remove the tree, after which the body was recovered.

In two separate incidents, four persons were injured when trees fell on their houses in Nagrakata and Matialli blocks. They were treated at local health centres. In total, over 1,300 houses and huts were damaged in Jalpaiguri district.

Block officials have moved into the areas with relief but are yet to ascertain the total loss. Many people are spending nights in relief centres. Due to the storm, a number of trees fell on NH31C and traffic came to a halt.

"The storm continued for 15 minutes to 20 minutes but it was so intense. We are still getting reports of house damage and uprooted trees blocking portions of rural roads," said an official in Malbazar.

The storm also caused extensive damage to some tea estates in Banarhat of Jalpaiguri. Shade trees in the plantations were uprooted and have affected tea bushes, workers' quarters and even factory shade in some gardens have been damaged.

In Banarhat, electricity snapped on Monday evening and the power supply resumed only on Tuesday afternoon.

The worst-affected gardens are Banarhat and Debpara. According to sources, a major section of workers did not join their duties on Tuesday as they were busy repairing quarters.

Another group moved around the garden to collect the trunks and branches of trees, which were uprooted in the storm.

"At least 100 workers' quarters and even shade of the factory were damaged. Shade trees are lying in tea bushes in many stretches of plantations," said Prasun Chakroborty, the manager of Debpara.

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