Rare spring storm batters the rural district of Bara

KATHMANDU: A freak storm tore down houses and overturned cars and trucks as it swept across southern Nepal killing at least 27 people and leaving more than 600 injured, officials said yesterday as a major rescue operation gathered pace. The rare spring storm battered the rural district of Bara and adjoining areas late Sunday with high winds. Five children were among the dead, the home ministry said, as rescuers battled to get relief supplies to the region and evacuate injured. The winds were so fierce that they overturned a bus carrying passengers, witnesses said. Houses, trees and electricity pylons were all toppled in the storm.
Injured victims flocked to local hospitals that were unable to cope and at least seven people were airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment. “We were in a shop when the wind started to pick up,” Jay Prakash Das, a Bara resident, told AFP. “It suddenly became stronger and we saw people running to shelter. We closed our shutter and stayed in. When it died down after a minute or two we opened the shutter to see everything flattened … trees, houses everything.

BIRGUNJ: Nepali villagers search for belongings in the debris of damaged homes at Bhaluhi Bharbaliya village in Nepal’s southern Bara district near Birgunj yesterday. — AFP

Killer trees
He added: “We rushed out to help. A man had died right next to our building under a tree. People had fractured bones and many had head injuries.” “I’ve never seen anything like this. The winds took away everything, my home and my family,” Ram Babu Patel, 45, whose wife was killed in the storm, told AFP by telephone. “I was at home getting ready for dinner when the storm hit-it was unbelievable. We have nothing left.” Many of the victims were crushed to death under the debris of their houses or by fallen trees and poles. The strong winds overturned parked cars.
Prakash Tharu, a volunteer in Bara district hit hard by the storm, described the scene of devastation in the villages. “The storm destroyed everything in its path. Houses have no roofs and trees are all down,” Tharu said. “There is a desperate need for food and relief.” Rescuers struggled to reach many settlements blocked by fallen trees and electricity poles. “Security bodies including the army have been working intensely since Sunday night on rescues and relief,” said Rajesh Poudel, Bara’s district chief.

Every year hundreds die in landslides and floods during Nepal’s monsoon season, but storms causing such high casualties in spring are rare. Nepal’s difficult terrain and limited infrastructure often leave emergency workers struggling to reach far-flung areas. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli expressed his condolences and said that the government would do what it could for treatment of the injured. The provincial government has announced free treatment and a financial assistance of 300,000 rupees ($2,710) for families of the dead.- AFP