The dead are dumped into the river and the living flee to hide their nakedness when relief workers approach. It is, says one survivor, the kind of disaster which "not even relief supplies can help."
A cyclone struck the southern part of India's West Bengal state on the night of Nov. 29, killing 100 and condemning hundreds of thousands to even more impoverished lives in the overcrowded region."People are just dumping their dead in the river or leaving them in the mud," Nanibala Devi, 50, whose family was killed in the storm, said as she leaned against a broken wall of what was once her home in the village of Hinglegunj. "We are all destined to that wretched end, we know. All of us."
Many of the villagers do not even care.
"I can't cry anymore, you know. For whom should I cry? There is no one left," said Santosh Mondal, who found the bodies of his wife and children in a paddy field.
"And quite a number of people in these villages have been so hopelessly depressed. This is a kind of problem not even relief supplies can help."
What relief supplies there are are inadequate, relief workers say.
State Health Department reports say victims of diarrhea, dysentery and fever are thronging village health centers, but there are not even basic medicines to give them.
Some women are refusing help because they do not have enough clothes to preserve their modesty in front of relief workers.
"As you approach the villages, you would be shocked to see that scantilly clad women, almost half nude, are rushing to hide themselves behind tree trunks," said Swarup Das, a community welfare worker in Hasnabad.
At least 50,000 homes were destroyed, condemning people to live exposed to the elements.