India

At least 45 killed, 4000 injured in Assam storm

By Pooja Saxena in Delhi
At least 45 people have died and around 4,000 were injured in the worst cyclonic storm to hit India's north-eastern state of Assam in living memory. The storm was so severe that a number of people were blown away and some are still missing.

The storm, which was accompanied by heavy rains, raged for 30 minutes through remote villages in Assam's Dhubri district.

Six villages in Kalpani district, near the border with Bangladesh, were flattened. Areas of the neighbouring state of Meghalaya were also affected.

Several government building and around 600 houses have been destroyed. Bringing relief to the affected areas has been hampered by the almost impassable roads, which were strewn with hundreds of trees and electricity poles toppled by the storm.

The Dhubri district branch of Indian Red Cross was quick to respond to the cyclone, providing relief within a few hours of the disaster. A team of four doctors and 10 paramedical staff reached the affected villages on 23 April and provided immediate health care and first aid to the victims.

The district branch has mobilised resources from the local communities and so far about 100 volunteers have distributed high energy biscuits, blankets, clothing, utensils, tarpaulins and baby food. Along with providing relief materials and food items to the victims, Red Cross volunteers are also providing psychosocial support.

"The immediate response of the state branch of the Indian Red Cross to this disaster shows the relevance of our disaster preparedness programme in the state," says Azmat Ulla, head of the International Federation's delegation in India. "We have invested heavily in training Red Cross staff and volunteers. Well-trained community-based volunteers are the key to immediate response."

As part of a disaster preparedness programme supported by the British government's development agency, the Indian Red Cross had pre-positioned relief stocks at the Red Cross warehouse in the state capital, Guwahati, to respond to disasters such as the latest one.

The national headquarters of the Indian Red Cross continues to monitor the situation and is constantly in touch with the Assam state branch, ready to intervene if required.