The storm struck without warning: An orange ball trailed by a swirl of dust hit villages on the east coast of India, reportedly killing at least 200 people and leaving thousands homeless.
"I was working in a paddy field, and survived its wrath," Khokan Bagh, a farmer, said of the tornado that devastated Sarta and nearby villages in West Bengal state on Tuesday. A second twister tore through neighboring Orissa state.Wednesday, hundreds of firefighters, policemen and volunteers searched the remains of shattered huts in hopes of finding survivors. Press Trust of India said at least 200 people died and 3,000 were injured.
R. Deb, a local official in Midnapore, the worst-hit district in West Bengal state, said the death toll was likely to rise as a result of Wednesday's search.
As many as 500 people were believed trapped under the debris of collapsed houses, Press Trust said.
In Sarta, 125 miles southwest of the West Bengal capital of Calcutta, 28 people died. As nearly 4,000 villagers ran in panic, they were blocked by a hailstorm accompanied by heavy rain, Bagh said.
In the Balasore district in Orissa, at least 40 children were feared crushed when a school building used as a shelter collapsed, Press Trust reported.
Elsewhere, 10 people died when the boat they were traveling in was lifted 20 feet into the air and dashed against a river bank. And 50 people were injured when winds blew a bus into a canal.