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Ill wind blows in death, ruin

The season’s fiercest Nor’wester ripped through the city and its adjoining areas early on Wednesday, leaving a trail of death and desolation.

At least four persons were killed and several others were injured as nearly 1,000 houses, most of them tin-roofed shanties, were flattened in Ghoshbagan, Anath Deb Lane and Raja Manindra Road in the Chitpur area, Belgachhia, Paikpara, Tiljala and Gobra.

By the time the stormy winds had died down, over 5,000 people had been rendered homeless.

Officials at the regional meteorological centre in Alipore said the storm, accompanied by lashing rain, hit the city at 44 kph around 2.34 am and continued for “several minutes”.

Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Hermanprit Singh said Indra Deo Prasad, 60, was electrocuted when he stepped on a live wire that had snapped in Aghorbibi Lane, in the Phoolbagan area.

Markandi Yadav, 65, and Mata Prasad Kharao, 52, were killed after being struck by lightning in Bally, Howrah. Kamal Maity, 28, was also killed by lightning in Ushti, South 24-Parganas.

On the outskirts of Howrah, four persons were injured in Domjur when the tin roof of a house collapsed on them.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ordered the fire brigade as well as the civil defence personnel to help restore normalcy on a war footing.

“The ferocious storm razed houses, uprooted trees and tore down billboards and signboards. We have asked the relief department to swing into action,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta and youth services minister Mohammad Salim visited the affected areas and supervised relief operations during the day.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, too, was busy monitoring the situation from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters.

The storm uprooted several hundred trees, a number of lamp-posts and traffic signals and tore down over a dozen billboards on VIP Road and the EM Bypass. The uprooted trees led to severe traffic snarls in Kankurgachhi, Park Circus, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Darga Road, AJC Bose Road, Girish Avenue, BT Road, CIT Road and Ashutosh Mukherjee Road.

Overhead electric cables snapped in several areas of north Calcutta, leading to localised disruption in power supply.

The storm wreaked havoc inside the high-walled Tallah pumping station, where it uprooted at least 30 big trees, including a century-old banyan tree, 25 lamp-posts and blew off the corrugated roofs and windows of more than a dozen buildings, including police quarters.

A shift engineer on night duty at station no. 2 on the 25-acre waterworks had to be rescued through a window by firemen as the door was blocked by the uprooted banyan tree.

The thunderstorm, however, provided relief from the sweltering heat of the past few days. The weather office recorded 34 mm of rain at Alipore. The minimum temperature dropped to 20.1 degrees Celsius, four degrees below normal. “April should see quite a few Nor’westers,” said a weather official.

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