Nathu-la after snowfall on Monday. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Oct. 15: A local cyclonic circulation, coupled with a strong south-west monsoon, caused a thunderstorm in north Bengal on Dashami morning which damaged hundreds of homes in North and South Dinajpur as well as Malda.
The October 14 storm lasted for barely five minutes but flattened homes in several places. All of Navami (October 13) and Dashami morning, all north Bengal districts got steady rain, which abated today.
The Met office has forecast heavy rainfall in the next 48 hours in sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim.
The Himalayan state of Sikkim got moderate snowfall yesterday, the first of the season that happened earlier than usual because of the change in the weather that caused a drop in temperature.
An area of depression that extends from the cyclonic circulation over south-west Bihar to south-west Bay of Bengal is believed to be the reason behind the thunderstorm.
Met department sources said the receding south-west monsoon could also have been a factor in causing the heavy rain.
“The monsoon brought heavy to very heavy rainfall in many places in sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim and in isolated places over Bihar. After cyclone Phailin, the low pressure area over Bihar became less marked (meaning weak), but another cyclonic circulation lies over Bihar and adjoining areas and a low pressure trough extends from Bihar to south-west Bay of Bengal,” the Met office said.
The forecast for rain in sub-Himalayan Bengal is mentioned on the IMD website.
Several low-lying areas in towns such as Jalpaiguri, Balurghat, Malda, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar got inundated yesterday evening after the heavy rain.
The water receded this morning.
In the Darjeeling hills, there were minor landslips. No loss of life was reported. A house in Kurseong was damaged when a tree fell on it.
Sikkim’s two-foot snowfall was categorised as moderate by Met officials. The state generally gets its first winter snow at November-end or early December.
Chhangu lake, Nathu-la and Baba Mandir, all tourist favourites, were carpeted in white this morning. Temperature dropped to –2°C in these areas.
The snowfall also blocked JN Marg that leads to Chhangu and Nathu-la.
Border trade was suspended today.
“This year, the winter is likely to be colder in comparison to last year as snowfall has been reported so early. It occurs one-and-a-half months later or so. Considering the current weather conditions, there is a chance for more snowfall in high-altitude areas in Sikkim,” a Met official said.
In North Sikkim, Yumthang valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Lachen and Lachung also got snow.
“This year, the snowfall has come much earlier. The whole mountain has been snowcapped and the view is really beautiful,” said Tsewang Lachenpa, the president of Lachen Tourism Development Committee.
The snowfall has come as a pleasant surprise for tourists.
“We never thought that there would be snowfall at this time. The view of the snow-capped mountains and the blanket of snow over Chhangu would have been a treat for the tourists,” said Avik Banerjee, a tourist from Calcutta.
In the thunderstorm in Malda, hundreds of homes in Ratua I and II blocks and Harishchandrapur I and II blocks were flattened.
“Huts with earthen walls and tin or straw roofs have got damaged in the sudden storm yesterday afternoon. The storm lasted hardly for five minutes but its intensity was so high that around 4,500 huts in these four blocks got damaged, either completely or partially,” an administrative official said in Malda.
G. Kiran Kumar, the district magistrate of Malda, said the administration was taking necessary steps.
“Since October 13, there had been incessant rainfall till today morning. Added to it was the sudden storm which affected some areas of the district. Instructions have been passed to officials at the block level to make an assessment of the loss and submit a report to us,” Kumar said.
“We have also learnt that some people have suffered injuries in the storm but are yet to obtain details. The affected families would be provided food and other relief.”
In South Dinajpur district, homes of over 500 residents were damaged. Seven persons, including a child, have suffered injuries during the storm.
The most damage was reported from Tapan and Harirampur blocks of the district.
“It was a terrible storm with rainfall. More than 300 houses were partially or fully damaged in 16 villages under two gram panchayats in Tapan. Crops on over 450 hectares were ruined,” Sudip Mukherjee, the SDO of Balurghat, said.
Debasish Bose, his counterpart in Gangarampur, said more than 250 houses were damaged in the storm in Harirampur block.
This morning, Satyen Roy, the MLA of Gangarampur visited the affected areas of Tapan and Harirampur.
The state agricultural department would be asked to arrange compensation for farmers who have lost crop worth over Rs 1 crore, Roy said.