33 killed, 50,000 homeless as killer storm wrecks Assam

The storm, accompanied by heavy rains, raged to the ground a cluster of eight villages in Mankachar circle of lower Assam's Dhubri district killing 30 people, including 14 women, Dhubri police superintendent Paresh Bordoloi told PTI. Most of the fatalities occurred when thatched houses collapsed and trees fell on the villagers.

Over 1,700 people were injured by the storm which packed tornado-like force. Two hundred of them were critical, Bordoloi said. Bordoloi said many people were injured in Dhubri when the tin roofs of houses blew off and struck them. Most of the injured were serious, he added.

The severity of the storm was such that it blew away a number of people, some of whom got stuck in swaying trees. Several government buildings were destroyed and telecommunication and power transmission lines in the entire area thrown out of gear.

The affected villages are Polaritola, Kazipur, Boriabeel, Tokapara, Bowskata and Benganbhita, under Hatisingmari sub- division of Assam while Pipalbari and North Pipalbari are in Meghalaya. Authorities mounted a massive rescue and relief operation which was joined by BSF, police and para-military forces. But carrying the relief speedily to the needy was thwarted by bad condition of the roads which were strewn with hundreds of trees and electric poles toppled by the storm.

In upper Assam's Dhemaji district, two people died while more than a thousand were injured in areas under Sisibargaon circle.

In Sonitpur district, one person was killed under Biswanath Chariali sub-division where more than 500 houses were flattened. At least 2000 people in the district were injured in the storm, reports reaching here said.

Divisional forest officer of Sonitpur West division said hundreds of trees were uprooted as power lines were snapped and surface communication networks destroyed.

In Tezpur, nearly 400 houses were razed to the ground and eight schools in villages destroyed. Official estimates said that nearly 50,000 people in the three districts were affected in the storm.

Press Trust of India / Guwahati, April 23