Storms leave trail of damage - Inclement weather fails to dampen Bihu spirit

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By OUR BUREAU
  • Published 17.04.10
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A puddle formed in front of a Bihu pandal in Guwahati after the storm. (Below) Thatched and corrugated iron roofs lie strewn after they were blown away during the storm in Dhubri. Picture by Eastern Projections and Telegraph picture

April 16: Storms, accompanied by torrential rain, thunder and hailstorm, have left a trail of death and devastation in Assam over the past four days. Nature’s fury, however, could not dampen the Bihu spirit entirely.

Lower Assam, particularly Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts, bore the brunt of bad weather. Five persons died and at least 20 were injured in Dhubri on Tuesday night when a high intensity storm lashed the area for 20 minutes. The deceased were identified as Aklima Khatoon, 9, Jarjina Khatoon, 8, Nazrul Islam, 35, Jiratan Bibi, 50, and Ashrana Khatoon.

Hundreds of livestock perished and property worth crores of rupees was damaged. Scores of houses, having thatched or corrugated iron sheet roofs, were either blown away or damaged in Teldhala, Pankata, Pathuria, Bagerbhita and Kherbari villages under South Salmara-Mancachar sub-division.

Jahura Bewa, 70, of Teldhala village under Mancachar police station, who was injured and left homeless, said at least 17 persons were injured in her village, almost all the houses were razed but no relief was in sight.

The sub-divisional officer of South Salmara-Mancachar, Sayeed Isfaqur Rahman, confirmed the death of four persons but said he could not say how many were injured. He said the next of kin of each of the deceased had been paid a one-time ex gratia of Rs 5,000 while Rs 3 lakh would be released after completion of the detailed report. He said relief material would be distributed after assessment of damage.

“Two officers were engaged yesterday to survey the damage caused by the storm. But they sustained serious injuries in a road mishap on their way to Hatsinghimari on a motorbike after completing the survey.”

The principal secretary of revenue and disaster management, V.K. Pipersenia, told The Telegraph that the state government had asked the deputy commissioners of the storm-hit districts to send detailed reports of property damage and loss of human lives caused by natural disaster by April 19.

Last night, another storm lashed the river islands of lower Assam, damaging whatever standing crops remained after last week’s hailstorms.

Sarat Saikia, the programme co-ordinator of Krishi Vigyan Kendra under Assam Agricultural University, Bilasipara, said extensive damage was caused to plantations in the banana belt of Golokganj in Dhubri district.

Dhrubajyoti Barua, a banana planter of North Kachakhana village under Golokganj development block, said he had incurred a loss of Rs 40,000. “The hailstorm damaged banana plantation of more than 200 farmers. The damage is so extensive that it can hardly be compensated.”

In Upper Assam, a 15-year-old girl, Satyabati Gowala, was injured and many houses were destroyed in Naharkatia as a storm lashed most parts of Dibrugarh district on Tuesday night. Storms and heavy rain threw normal life out of gear in Margherita and Digboi areas of Tinsukia district as well.

Sources said about 42 houses were destroyed in Ghinai No. 2, Samaguri, Juriapathar and Kakonichuk villages under Naharkatia revenue circle. In Digboi, the boundary walls of Assam Oil Division of IOCL Primary School and those of the Golden Jubilee complex collapsed. These areas plummeted into darkness as trees fell upon electric wires and the high velocity wind uprooted electric poles, cutting off power supply.

The daylong Bihu function organised by the Sivasagar District Ancient Monuments Preservation Committee with public assistance went on without a hitch yesterday.

In Guwahati, Nor’westers hit the city with a wind speed of 80 kmph last night but failed to dampen the Bihu spirit. The thundersquall forced Bihu organisers to stop cultural programmes for about an hour but as soon as the storm subsided, the functions picked up from where they had left off.

The scene was not very different at Guwahati Bihu Sanmilan at Latasil. The bihutoli was teeming with thousands of people when the thunder squall struck. Soon people started running for cover. Many huddled inside the pandal while others took shelter in nearby buildings. A part of the pandal roof was blown away.

But as soon as the winds died down, the Bihu mood returned and the function resumed.

“Notwithstanding the 45 minutes to one hour disruption, our programme continued till 2am. The crowd was on its feet with popular singers Debojit Saha and Mayukh Hazarika belting out hit number after another,” the executive member of Guwahati Bihu Sanmilan, Kailash Sarma, said. He added that they had to reschedule singer Krishnamoni Nath’s performance because of the storm. “He will be performing at our bihutoli this evening,” he said.

“Bihu comes once a year and come rain or storm we will enjoy it to the fullest,” Rishiraj Choudhury, a college student, said, summing up the mood.

According to the Regional Meteorological Centre at Borjhar, the thunder squall hit the city between 9.46pm to 9.48pm with a wind speed of 80 kmph accompanied by 14.6mm rainfall.

In its forecast, the Met office sounded a warning that thunder squall accompanied by hail and wind speed exceeding 50kmph could occur at one or two places over the region, excluding Arunachal Pradesh, in the next 48 hours.