| The sky over Siliguri before the storm hit the town and its surroundings at 50 kmph. Picture by Diptendu Dutta
Malda/Alipurduar/Siliguri, May 19: Eight persons, including three minors, were killed today as a thunderstorm lashed across several districts of north Bengal.
Four persons died in the Ratua police station area as the thunderstorm raged in Malda for three hours.
More than a hundred huts were destroyed and livestock killed in the incident.
All four persons died after they were struck by lightning. While three of the dead have been identified, one body is still unclaimed, police said. The identified persons are Ashok Rabidas (22) and Mujibur Rehman (26) from the Bilaimari panchayat area and Kalu Mondol (27) from Mahanandatola.
Biliamari gram panchayat pradhan Dwijen Mondol said the storm hit the area around 9 am and all of those who died were grazing their cattle in the fields. Even 12 cows and 16 goats were killed. 'More than 70 huts in my panchayat area were damaged,' Mondol said. Dipali Mondol, the pradhan of the Mahanandatola gram panchayat, claimed that more than 50 huts were destroyed in her area.
A young boy died in Alipurduar when the storm hit the area this morning.
Bittu Dutta (14) was on his way to school and walking by the Kaljani around 10.45 am, when lightning struck.
Residents of the area took him to the Alipurduar hospital where Bittu was declared brought dead.
'Today, he was in such a hurry that he did not even eat anything. He said he would come home for lunch,' said Rima Dutta, his mother. 'I still cannot believe that Bittu will never return.'
Anita Sarkar, the councillor of ward 11, the area where Bittu used to live, promised to extend all sorts of help to his family.
According to reports from Raiganj, the headquarters of North Dinajpur, three persons were struck down by lightning while working in fields there. Two of the victims were in their teens ' Rubina Khatun (14) of Altapur and Masud Alam (16) of Bajila, both in the Karandighi police station area. The third victim was Chapo Barman (45) of Mohagachi in the Itahar police station area.
The storm hit Siliguri and adjoining areas as it gathered a speed of up to 50 kmph, uprooting trees and snapping overhead electric wires.
There were as many as 15 feeder breakdowns in Siliguri proper, a WBSEB source said, adding that the surrounding rural regions suffered double the number. 'Power supply to around 50 per cent of Siliguri was hit following the storm,' a senior superintendent engineer of the SEB said.
The SEB sent out four emergency teams to conduct repairs. Power to most areas in the city was restored by afternoon, but rural areas like Phansidewa, Goaltuli and the Teesta Canal were still in the dark till the evening.
According to Subir Sarkar, who is in charge of the North Bengal University's weather station, a cyclonic circulation had resulted from the low pressure that had developed following two days of high temperatures. 'We recorded 8 mm of rainfall. The temperature dropped from 36.5 degrees Celsius recorded yesterday to 30.6 degrees today,' he said.