March 26, 1998 in Nation/World

Tornado Crushes School, 40 Children Feared Dead

Bikas Das Associated Press
 

Nearly 100 young students had just finished their lunch at a school in eastern India when the tornado struck.

“Suddenly very strong winds hit the school from nowhere. Then the walls collapsed,” 12-year-old Ranjan Ray recalled Wednesday.

Ray survived, but at least 40 children were feared crushed in the collapse of the school building Tuesday in Balasore district in Orissa state, Press Trust of India reported.

The twister was the second to hit India’s east coast Tuesday, killing 200 people and injuring 3,000, Press Trust said. The area is 750 miles east of the Indian capital, New Delhi.

In less than two minutes, the raging cone of howling winds and orange earth tore through villages in the state. It destroyed the school, lifted a crowded boat 20 feet into the air before dashing it into a riverbank, and hurled a bus with 50 people into a canal.

The storms devastated several villages, burying some people alive and leaving more than 10,000 homeless, Press Trust said, quoting police officials. As many as 500 people were believed trapped under the debris of collapsed houses.

The main storm ripped through several villages in Midnapore district in West Bengal state, then spun off another tornado that flattened villages in neighboring Orissa state, according to meteorologists.

A toddler named Madhav and his mother remained buried for eight hours in an obscure village, Roshankanya, in the Midnapore district. Rescuers extricated the 2-1/2-year-old boy alive but he died soon afterward, officials said. Madhav’s mother was found dead.


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