The Indian authorities were rushing food rations, clothes and cooking utensils to villagers in the east of the country on Thursday after a storm killed at least 48 people and left thousands more homeless, government officials said.
With wind speeds of up to 70 km per hour (43 mph) and heavy rains, the storm struck Bihar state late on Tuesday, uprooting trees and electricity poles, ripping through farmland and destroying over 25,000 mud-and-thatch homes.
State officials said 12 of Bihar’s 38 districts had been affected, including Purnia, Madhepura and Saharsa.
“Now we are rushing relief, food items and utensils to the affected families,” Anirudh Kumar, a state disaster management official, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As well as ripping apart homes and destroying possessions, the storm also flattened banana plantations and maize and wheat fields, causing many villagers to lose their livelihoods, he said.
Officials said they were still assessing the scale of the devastation, a process hindered by snapped telecommunication lines and villages cut off by uprooted trees blocking roads.
“The damage is huge although we cannot provide the exact figure because we are still assessing the extent of damage,” said Sudhir Kumar, a senior official in Purnia.
Bihar’s governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has asked the state government to provide 400,000 rupees ($6,300) in compensation to each of the victims’ families.
Weather officials said because the storm developed quickly, there was not enough time to issue an early warning and evacuate villagers to shelters.
India is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and many of its 1.2 billion people live in areas vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, cyclones, droughts and earthquakes.
In 2008, major flooding in Bihar triggered by heavy monsoons left more than 500 people dead and disrupted the lives of two million others.