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One million homeless after India tornado

A giant tornado that ravaged hundreds of thousands of homes and killed 137 people has left one million people in eastern India without a roof over their heads. Packing a wind speed of 75 miles and hour, the storm raged for 40 minutes leaving a trail of destruction in West Bengal and neighbouring regions, Bihar and Assam last week. “It was like a cyclone with people shouting Cyclone Aila, which hit West Bengal last year. We prayed for early end of nature’s fury,” Sudan Sahay, in Araria told India Journal.

More than 200,000 houses have been completely or badly damaged by the storm, according to figures from aid agencies and government officials. And the very poorest families are most affected because they had thatched roofed houses.  "Most people are living out in the open amid the wreckage of their homes," said Amarendra Ghana, programme officer for the Catholic Relief Services in West Bengal's North Dinajpur district. "We have started distributing shelter kits in both districts which include tarpaulin sheets, plastic mats, rope, matchboxes and candles, but the need is great and much, much more is required," she told Reuters news service. Because the poor sanitation natural disasters bring on can lead to disease, the organisation is also handing out hygiene kits with washing powder, soap, disinfectant, sanitary cloths, and buckets to help people in West Bengal and Bihar, while they rebuild.

Government authorities have also announced it will hand out relief packages, but aid workers on the scene say they have only seen them in a few places. Now, one week on, health centres are still not running and injured villagers, who are wounded by collapsed buildings and uprooted trees, are finding it hard to get medical treatment. Water sources such as ponds have been left contaminated by dead farm animals-- thousands have died which leaves children who wash in the water at risk of skin infections. People trafficking is rife in the area and aid workers fear that if families don’t get enough support, many will be forced to send their children off with traffickers. "Araria district (in Bihar) has a high prevalence of child trafficking in normal times and this is known to increase during disasters," Save the Children said. "Livelihood support ... is vital to mitigate forced migration and potential risks to women and children.”

Bihar state has pledged to pay compensation to people who have lost family members.

Hayley attribution