India

Hundreds missing in India's storm-hit Assam

By Biswajyoti Das

BALIABIL, India (Reuters) - Rescue workers and villagers in northeast India searched waterlogged fields and bamboo groves on Thursday for hundreds of people missing after the worst storm in decades hit the region.

The death toll from the powerful Tuesday night thunder storm increased to 38 after two more deaths were reported, officials in Assam state said.

About 2,500 people were hurt when the storm smashed through a dozen villages in Dhubri district, between Bangladesh and Bhutan. More than 3,000 people were homeless, officials said.

Most of the victims of the storm, which also lashed parts of Bangladesh, were villagers whose straw-and-bamboo huts were flattened. Most of the hundreds of missing were children.

"I saw strong winds coming and took my wife and two children inside the house," said Aziur Rahman a resident of hard-hit Baliabil village.

"But the winds blew away the roof. The walls collapsed in seconds, killing my 12-year-old daughter in front of our eyes. A bamboo pole pierced through her chest, killing her instantly," he said as tears rolled down his face.

Villagers said hundreds of houses, including ones built of brick and cement, collapsed. Trees, electric and telephone poles were also destroyed.

"We have no house to live in now, no food to eat and no clothes to wear," said Alimuddin, who was searching for two missing children.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told parliament in New Delhi efforts were being made to help survivors.

Residents of neighbouring villages and towns poured into the affected villages to provide relief as survivors and relief workers complained of slow government relief efforts.

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