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White veil on north Bihar

CHILL FACTOR: A field covered in a layer of hail at Paroo (above) in Muzaffarpur district on Saturday. (Below) A resident tries to clear the way at Saraiyya, also in the district. Pictures by Pankaj Kumar
 

Patna: One person lost his life and many were left injured as an unprecedented hailstorm carpeted the ground in several north Bihar districts with hail stones the size of golf balls, turning everything white. There were places that looked no less than Shimla and Kashmir during a snowfall.

The unusual weather activity began at 6.30am in West Champaran, Gopalganj and parts of East Champaran and swept the land towards the east, hitting Siwan, Saran, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur and Samastipur. It was not uniform everywhere. Many places did not witness any hailstorm, but were hit by a squall accompanied by rainfall. By evening, the thunder squall and hailstorm hit parts of Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Munger and Jamui districts. It was still progressing and moving towards other districts.

"We have been forecasting the development of this weather system for the last few days with the help of radar imagery. We had been issuing weather warnings too. The wind speed was high, reaching up to 40 to 60 knots (nautical miles) or between 75-110kmph. It also rained at several places," IMD scientist Anand Shankar said.

"We've issued another alert for tomorrow (Sunday) and several districts in north and south Bihar could be hit. But the intensity will be less," Anand said. He had never seen anything like this before.

Disaster management department (DMD) joint secretary Anirudh Kumar said one person died because of a thunderbolt at Hajipur in Vaishali district and his next of kin will be provided Rs 4 lakh in compensation, as per government rules, within 24 hours. "We've sought crop damage report from all affected districts. The reports are expected by Sunday and farmers will be compensated accordingly," Anirudh said.

Muzaffarpur district magistrate Dharmendra Kumar said Saraiyya and Paroo blocks were the worst hit by hailstorm while Muzaffarpur city witnessed no storm though there was some rain (roughly around 2 mm).

"The amount of hail was huge and we're assessing crop damage. Litchi and mango crop in Saraiyya, Paroo, Kudhni areas have been hit," Dharmendra said.

Gopalganj district magistrate Rahul Kumar said no human life was lost in the district because "IMD had forecast the storm 48 hours ahead. Accordingly, information was shared with the public. The hailstorm hit Baikunthpur and Sidwalia areas while remaining places in the district were hit by thunderstorm. Crop damage is being assessed."

Agriculture minister Prem Kumar expressed worry over crop damage suffered by farmers and assured that the state government will compensate them for the losses. "All agriculture and horticulture officials have been asked to assess damage and submit a report as soon as possible. We are keeping a watch on the situation," Prem said.

Patna was hit by a dust storm that lasted a few minutes around 12pm. However no damage was reported, except for a tree that fell on the approach road to Gandhi Setu over the Ganga and obstructed traffic for a few hours. Vehicular traffic came to a standstill during the storm on highways in north Bihar.

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