AGRA (India) • Lightning strikes and powerful dust storms across India have killed at least 116 people and injured more than 250, with warnings from meteorologists yesterday of more wild weather to come.
Dust clouds plunged swathes of north India into darkness as winds of more than 130kmh brought down feeble mud houses, trees and electric pylons, killing people where they slept.
Similar storms kill hundreds of people each year in India, but these were some of the most severe in recent decades.
Mr Shivam Lohia, who owns a resort hotel in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, said he abandoned his car on the road and ran for his life after it was almost blown away.
"I haven't 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," Mr Lohia said.
There were 65 confirmed deaths in Uttar Pradesh in the north, 35 in the desert state of Rajasthan to the west, and two in Punjab. Agra district in Uttar Pradesh was one of the worst hit, with 43 people killed.
RUNNING FOR LIFE
I haven't 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.
MR SHIVAM LOHIA, who owns a resort hotel in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. He abandoned his car on the road and ran for his life after it was almost blown away.
The day before, at least 14 were killed in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which was hammered by more than 41,000 lightning strikes in a matter of hours, disaster officials said yesterday.
Rescuers were still going through the rubble of felled homes yesterday. "We can confirm at least 65 deaths from around 40 of the state's 75 districts," Mr T.P. Gupta of the Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner's office said.
More than 150 cattle and other animals were also killed across the state. "There is a forecast for more storms in the next 48 hours across the state, so people should be alert," he added.
Mr Hemant Gera, the head of Rajasthan's Disaster Management and Relief Department, said emergency services are on alert and that people should not sleep outdoors.
The India Meteorological Department said there would be more storms over a wider area up to tomorrow.
Weather department officials in New Delhi said the dust storm was caused by a collision of rival eastern and western weather systems over the humid northern plains.
Scientist Charan Singh of the India Meteorological Department said winds of 132kmh hit Agra, while in the capital Delhi, there were winds of 59kmh.
Power supply was cut in many parts of Rajasthan as thousands of electricity pylons were destroyed.
Officials said it could take more than two days to restore power.
The state government quickly released funds to compensate the families of those killed or for damage.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter: "Saddened by the loss of lives due to dust storms in various parts of India. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.
"Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected."