Storm destroys 60 000 homes
Kolkata - A violent storm killed at least 33 people and devastated more than 60 000 homes as it swept across eastern India and Bangladesh overnight, officials said on Wednesday.
High winds tore through a northern district of India's West Bengal state, 600km north of capital Kolkata, and the Rangpur area of Bangladesh across the border, knocking down homes and electricity lines.
"Most of the victims were buried under the collapsed walls of their homes," West Bengal Minister Srikumar Mukherjee said, adding that 50 000 homes had been destroyed in India.
The storm was an extreme form of what is locally known as a "nor'wester" - a weather pattern that develops over the nearby Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year, the West Bengal weather office said.
Nor'westers normally bring refreshing winds that blow across the low-lying region in March and April and lower temperatures, Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the weather office, told AFP.
In Bangladesh, Rangpur district administrator BM Enamul Haq said two people had died, including a police officer who was crushed under a collapsed wall.
The storm demolished a police barracks, leaving dozens injured, two of whom remain in critical condition and have been sent to the capital Dhaka.
"The storm has damaged more than 11 000 mud, tin and concrete homes in Rangpur district alone - many of the houses were completely demolished. It was a huge storm and we are still assessing the damage," he added.
In India, relief has been rushed to the affected villages and homeless people were being shifted to local schools and government offices, Mukherjee said.
In the worst-hit area of the state, North Dinajpur district, train services have come to a halt and the national highway is blocked by toppled trees.
"The roof of four police stations were also blown off," he said.
The storm comes amid unseasonably high temperatures across much of northern India where the mercury is already above 40° in many areas.
The Press Trust of India reported that the number of heat-related deaths had risen to 42 in the eastern state of Orissa since the beginning of the month, after another five people died on Tuesday.
The United News of India reported another death on Tuesday in the western state of Gujarat.
The weather department on Tuesday said nine of India's 29 states were sizzling in a heatwave.