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Jalpaiguri storm: Hapless, homeless residents await relief, rehabilitation

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Houses are damaged and electric poles fell after a heavy storm that left at least five people dead, in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, on March 31

Houses are damaged and electric poles fell after a heavy storm that left at least five people dead, in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, on March 31

Jalpaiguri: Residents of Jalpaiguri town and its surrounding areas in West Bengal continue to grapple with the aftermath of Sunday's storm, which left at least five people dead and rendered over 200 homeless.

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Amid the chaos, a hapless Pankaj Ray stares at the ruins of his home, surrounded by scattered bricks and twisted tin walls. His family, once united by love, now bears the scars of the storm. While one family member is fighting for life in hospital, others are struggling to manage a square meal.

Ten-year-old Anjali clings on to her father's hand, seeking comfort in the midst of the destruction. Their once joyful abode has been torn apart, forcing them to run from pillar to post looking for a place to stay.

"Where will we go, baba? Our shelter is gone," Anjali said. Her father Pankaj had no answers.

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Several people with whom PTI spoke to were clueless about when life will get back to normal.

"The storm which came from nowhere has destroyed our homes. We don't know how and when we can rebuild it," said Kajol Dutta, a resident of Mainaguri, around 40 km from Jalpaiguri.

Efforts are underway by rescue personnel to clear the debris and provide assistance to those affected.

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Nearly 200 people were injured and several houses were damaged, trees uprooted and electric poles came crashing down as strong winds accompanied by hail struck most parts of the district headquarters town and many areas of neighbouring Mainaguri.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who rushed to the district late on Sunday night, assured people of all help from the administration.

"So far, we have reports of the death of five people. The number of injured is quite high. I met the injured and the family members of those who died in the storm. The state administration will do everything to help the affected families," she said.

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Asked about providing compensation, Banerjee said, "As the model code of conduct is in place, I can't say anything about it. You have to talk to the district administration." Banerjee, accompanied by TMC party leaders, went to Jalpaiguri Medical College and Hospital and on her way spoke to those in the relief camps in other parts of the district.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said relief work should not be politicised, underlining the importance of prioritising assistance to those in need.

Among the most affected areas in the district were Rajarhat, Barnish, Bakali, Jorpakdi, Madhabdanga and Saptibari, officials said, adding that several acres of agricultural land and crops suffered damage.

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Governor C V Ananda Bose also reached Jalpaiguri on Monday.

"This is very unfortunate. There is loss of lives in the storm. All the agencies are working together. I will be visiting the area and speak to the people there. Everything will be done," Bose told reporters before boarding the flight.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the storm and said he had spoken with officials and asked them to ensure proper assistance to those affected by it.

Dhupguri MLA Nirmal Chandra Roy told PTI that several people have been admitted to hospital with injuries.

An emergency cell has also been opened at the Raj Bhavan to deal with the situation in Jalpaiguri, officials said. 

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