For nearly a month now, the residents of Sadiya, a small Indian town in the North-eastern state of Assam, have been living in fear of an unknown species of spider that has descended on the area without notice.
According to locals, the initial swarm hit on May 8th during a cultural celebration. The Times of India reports that chaos erupted as attendees trampled over each other in an effort to escape the massive cluster of spiders that had appeared out of nowhere.
Sadly, the incident was not an isolated one. Since that day, dozens of people have reported being bitten by spiders, and at least two people have died. Residents across the district have been asked to remain inside at night, when the spiders are known to emerge from their hiding places.
Scientists sent to the area to study the arachnids have thus far been unable to determine their species or place of origin. "As of now, we cannot give a specific name. It's similar to the tarantula, but it could be a whole new species," said Dr. L. R. Saikia of the Life Sciences department at Dibrugarh University.
Dr. Ratul Rajkhowa of Cotton College believes the spider could be a black wishbone or a family member of the funnel-web spider — both typically found far away from Assam. "[W]hatever the species, it is a highly aggressive spider. It leaps at anything that comes close. Some of the victims claimed the spider latched onto them after biting."
Bite victims have apparently made matters worse for themselves by having witch doctors treat their wounds before being seen by a medical doctor, according to Dr. Anil Phatowali of Sadiya Civil Hospital. He also noted that no antivenin could be administered, as the venom's effects remain a mystery. Worse still, Assam has never been home to venomous spiders, and thus has not had to previously deal with their bites.