A violent overnight dust storm in parts of northern and western India has killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 200 others, with the death toll expected to rise even further.
The storm tore through the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday evening (Thursday AEST), but the extent of the damage only became clear on Thursday (Friday AEST).
Wednesday night’s storm, accompanied by high-speed winds of up to 130km/h, lightning and thunder, felled trees and electricity poles, started fires and brought down roofs and temporary structures.
One dramatic video captured in Bikaner, Rajasthan, showed a wall of dust descending on the city.
At least 73 deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh, 43 of them in Agra district where the iconic Taj Mahal is located, Achal Srivastav, an official at the disaster control room in state capital Lucknow, said.
The toll could rise with information still coming in from remote areas.
Dramatic video shows a wall of dust sweeping across a northern Indian city. Dust storms have been responsible for at least 77 deaths in Northern India Thursday. https://t.co/Qy20ijVyWm pic.twitter.com/NAWnCkZ29A
— ABC News (@ABC) May 4, 2018
Meanwhile, at least 36 people died in Rajasthan’s eastern districts of Alwar, Dholpur and Bharatpur, according to Hemant Gera of the Rajasthan government’s Disaster Management Department.
Most of the deaths were caused by house collapses and uprooted trees, the officials said.
Summer dust storms accompanied by strong winds are common in northern India but the casualties are usually not so high.
Officials said the high number of casualties was probably because people were asleep in their homes when the storm struck.
A majority of the people affected belonged to poorer sections of the community living in semi-permanent structures where tin roofs blew off and mud walls collapsed, they said.
DEADLY STORM: Dozens have died, multiple others injured and left without homes or power after a violent dust-storm swept through north-western India. Emergency crews are clearing debris and restoring power – with more violent weather expected. #TenNews pic.twitter.com/8TMxvHeBJr
— TEN Eyewitness News (@channeltennews) May 4, 2018
The governments of both states have announced a compensation fund of 400,000 rupees ($8000) for the families of the deceased.
Electricity poles were uprooted in several areas, cutting off power supplies.
In many areas, fallen trees were blocking roads.
Disaster management teams were at work and relief materials were being distributed, officials said.
Further thunderstorms with gusty winds were expected over the next four days across northern, eastern and northeastern India, the Meteorological Department said.
– with AAP