Sunday 21/07/2019 - 10:11 am

India dust storms: Nearly 100 killed in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan

2018.05.03 05:06

At least 95 people have been killed and scores more injured in fierce dust storms that hit the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The storms on Wednesday disrupted electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and killed livestock.

Many of the dead were sleeping when their houses collapsed after being struck by intense bursts of lightning.

Dust storms are common in this part of India during summer but loss of life on this scale is unusual.

Sixty-four people died in Uttar Pradesh, 43 of them in Agra district which is home to the Taj Mahal monument. Officials say the death toll could increase.

Falling trees and walls killed many people in the state.

Local journalist Laxmikant Pachouri told the BBC that 21 people had died in the village of Kheragarh, about 50km (30 miles) south-west of Agra.

Some of the houses there were made of mud, others from bricks and mortar.

"People are in shock and cant believe that such destruction happened in their village. I met a family which lost four children last night - it was so disturbing. The family cant believe it. They told me that their children were playing in the house when a wall collapsed on them," Pachouri said.

"Their parents are so distraught and cannot stop crying."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the loss of life.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to personally monitor relief operations.

The storms also affected three districts in neighbouring Rajasthan state - Alwar, Bharatpur and Dholpur - where at least 31 people were killed. Officials say Alwar is worst affected. Schools in the district are closed.

Alwar hotel owner Shivam Lohia said he abandoned his car after it was almost blown off the road.

"I havent seen such a devastating storm in at least 25 years. Everyone was scared and running for cover as trees and homes were getting blown away. It was a nightmare," he told the AFP news agency.

The Uttar Pradesh government has also announced that families of the dead will receive 400,000 rupees ($6,000; £4,400) as compensation.

Officials said they had been taken aback by the ferocity of the storms.

"Ive been in office for 20 years and this is the worst Ive seen," Hemant Gera, secretary for disaster management and relief in Rajasthan, told the BBC.

"We had a high intensity dust storm on 11 April - 19 people died then - but this time it struck during the night so many people sleeping and couldnt get out of their houses when mud walls collapsed."

Mr Gera said teams were trying to restore electricity to homes after 200 to 300 electricity poles were felled in the storm.

The dust storm also hit the capital Delhi, more than 100km (62 miles) away, late on Wednesday evening. The city was also belted by heavy rain.

Indias Meteorological Department said more storms were likely across a wider area before the weekend.


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