Hailstorm runs havoc in estates

A hailstorm accompanied by rain flattened tea bushes and damaged property in four tea gardens of the Alipurduar subdivision last night.

The calamity hit the Tasati, Mujnai Subhasini and Ethelbari tea estates around 10.15pm and left a trail of devastation in just 15 minutes.

The worst-hit was the Tasati tea estate where the bushes were completely shaved off and the management feared that production would not be possible before June.

“Of the 400 hectares, bushes in about 120 hectares have been very badly damaged. The loss, according to our preliminary estimates, will be around Rs 50-60 lakh. The roofs of about 80 houses of our workers had been blown off,” said Tasati manager V.K. Goyel.

Chemicals were being sprayed on the damaged bushes to prevent them from pest attacks and diseases.

An estimated Rs 20 lakh would be required to repair the damaged houses, Goyel said and added a similar hailstorm had destroyed the property in April 2005.

“The hailstones were at least an inch in diameter and inflicted heavy damage on the bushes. We will be hard put to compensate for the loss,” the Tasati manager said.

In Mujnai, a portion of the factory shed was destroyed in the storm. The management had just repaired the shed after it was damaged last year. “We had planned to reopen the factory from today, but last night’s storm damaged the wall as well as the factory shed. We will have to carry out repair work again and need at least Rs 5 lakh which will be hard on us at a time of financial crisis,” said N.N. Chakrabarty, a senior manager of the garden.

At the Subhasini tea garden, at least 100 feet of the factory wall collapsed. The management said it would have to erect a fencing after removing the rubble.

Debarghya Guha, the manager of Ethelbari Tea Estate in Falakata, said 1.59 lakh kg of green leaves worth Rs 2.8 crore were destroyed in the hailstorm last night.