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Storm & hail stunt Mujnai recovery
- 200 quarters, bushes and eight lakh saplings damaged in tea garden

Alipurduar, May 2: A storm accompanied by hailstones has damaged tealeaves and a factory under refurbishment on Mujnai Tea Estate, besides destroying workers’ quarters and eight lakh saplings in a nursery.

The hailstorm last evening couldn’t have come at a worse time as the garden was on the path of recovery after five years of closure. The plucking of tea leaves resumed and workers were getting wages after the estate was reopened in May last year.

A female worker, Vikni Munda, was injured when she was hit by a hailstone. She has been admitted to the primary health centre at Madarihat.

The plantation spread across 200 hectares has 1,025 workers. The garden is 57km from here.

The deputy manager of the tea estate, Tushar Roy Chowdhury, said: “I am absolutely speechless at the extent of damage caused by yesterday’s hailstorm. We had been expecting a good plucking season this May and had decided to start manufacturing tea on our own as the factory was almost ready. Now, we don’t know what to do,” he said.

The factory was under renovation and refurbishment and was scheduled to be commissioned in a few weeks.

“A portion of the tin roof of the factory has been blown away and the machinery to produce CTC tea has been damaged by rainwater,” said Roy Chowdhury.

After the estate had been reopened, the new management concentrated on tending to tea bushes and replacing the old and bad plants with new saplings. A nursery was set up with eight lakh plants for the purpose.

Emphasis was also given to the renovation of the factory and the repair of workers’ quarters.

“Tea leaves on 200 hectares were hit by the storm. More than 200 workers’ quarters were also damaged. We had a nursery with about eight lakh saplings and they have also been completely destroyed. I am afraid that we won’t be able to pluck a single leaf in May. I have sent a report to the higher-ups in Calcutta,” said Roy Chowdhury.

He added that the estimated loss was about Rs 3 crore.

The workers who lost their houses have either taken shelter at other’s dwellings that had been spared by the storm or have spent the night under tarpaulin shelters.

“We have sent carpenters to repair the houses. We have also contacted the block development officer for more tarpaulin sheets,” said the deputy manager.

One dies

One person died and 22 people were injured when a storm accompanied by hailstones hit Kumarganj block of South Dinajpur around 8.30pm yesterday.

Durgadas Goswami, the district magistrate of South Dinajpur, said about 2,000 mud and tin-roofed houses had been damaged. “Baidyanath Tudu, 26, a farmer, died when a mud wall fell on him at Safarnagar. We have sent rice and tarpaulin sheets to the affected area. The Kumarganj block office says property and crops worth around Rs 4 crore have been damaged.”