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Thousands need aid after deadly Indian storm strikes
NEW DELHI |
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of shelter, food and water after a tropical storm ripped through impoverished villages in eastern India, killing 120 people, aid workers and officials said Thursday.
Packing wind speeds of up to 120 kph (75 mph), the nor'wester -- a weather pattern that develops in the Bay of Bengal during the summer -- flattened thousands of homes, destroyed crops and killed hundreds of cattle when it struck late Tuesday.
Aid agencies and officials are still assessing the damage in the worst-affected states of Bihar and West Bengal, but early indications suggest destruction is widespread and major relief required.
"The damage is very enormous and the government is very shocked by a tragedy of such a dimension," said Devesh Chandra Thakur, minister for disaster management for Bihar, where 72 people were confirmed dead.
Populations living in the affected areas, bordering Bangladesh, are largely poor -- living on less than a dollar a day, eking out a living as farmers or doing manual work.
Television footage showed uprooted trees lying on top of collapsed mud and thatch huts, and sheets of corrugated iron which had been ripped from roofs scattered on the ground.
Over 100,000 houses have been partially damaged or completely destroyed, hundreds of hectares of crops such as rice, maize, mangoes and bananas have also been destroyed and livestock deaths are in their hundreds, said officials and aid workers.
The United Nations in India said there has been no formal call for external existence, adding the government has begun distributing relief items such as dried food and tarpaulins and clothes to affected populations.
International aid agencies working in the area however say more humanitarian aid will be required in coming days.
"We are currently doing rapid assessments of the affected areas so we can provide necessary relief," said Ray Kancharia, Save the Children's emergency manager.
"The first few days are critical -- people desperately need shelter of some shape or form as well as food and water."
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Jerry Norton)
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