The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fierce weather claims 13

March 24: At least 13 people were killed in 36 hours as a squall accompanied by intermittent showers lashed vast swathes of the state.

Many were injured and thousands of houses destroyed. Almost 40,000 people were rendered homeless and power and phone lines snapped.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in the evening: 'Four districts were affected the most, including Nadia and Burdwan. We have received reports of deaths and dwelling units being destroyed.'

Reports from the districts put the toll at over a dozen.

Chandan Paik, 18, and his brother Nandan, 26, were struck by lightning this evening while working in a field at Khejuri in East Midnapore.

In Jalpaiguri, Maina Ray, 62, was killed when the tin-and-concrete roof of her house caved in. Yesterday, Sarawat Mondal, 55, died in the district almost identically.

Two people were killed in Burdwan and and one in Nadia. Two farmers were reported dead after being struck by lightning in South 24-Parganas.

The police identified them as Sardul Islam, 22, of Patharpratima, about 90 km from Calcutta, who was working in a chilli field, and Tapan Dalui, 28, of Gobindarampur in Kakdwip, 80 km from the city.

Three more were killed by lightning at Garbeta in West Midnapore yesterday.

An unidentified man of around 35 was killed last night in Bagda, North 24-Parganas, also by lightning.

Seven districts were affected. Met office sources said the wind blew at 60 to 70 km an hour in some places.

Relief minister Hafiz Alam Sairani said at Writers' Buildings the government was monitoring the situation continuously. He announced a compensation of Rs 70,000 for the next of kin of the dead, Rs 2,000 for people whose houses were flattened and Rs 1,000 for those with partially destroyed houses.

In North 24-Parganas alone, about 4,000 houses were destroyed. Nadia and Jalpaiguri were next on that list.

'We have already sent relief ' drinking water pouches, tarpaulins, medicines and dry food ' to the affected areas. The district magistrates have been told to ask officials to find out if more areas were affected, but went unreported. Medical teams have been sent to hospitals near the affected areas to locate and treat the injured,' said a relief officer.

The relief office has also contacted the public health engineering department to check whether additional arrangements need to be made to ensure supply of safe drinking water to the homeless.

Agriculture minister Kamal Guha met his department's officials to assess the condition of standing crops.

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