India dust storms: More than 100 killed in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan
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India dust storms: More than 100 killed in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan

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At least 109 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.

At least 73 people died in Uttar Pradesh – more than half of them of them in Agra district, which is home to the Taj Mahal monument.

Falling trees and walls killed many people in the state.

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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.

Collapsed home in KheragarhImage copyrightLAXMIKANT PACHOURI
Image captionMore than 20 people were left dead in Kheragarh village

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

“People are in shock and can’t believe that such destruction happened in their village. I met a family which lost four children last night – it was so disturbing. The family can’t 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 36 people were killed. Officials say Alwar is worst affected. Schools in the district are closed.

Lightning strikes over residential apartments during a thunderstorm on the outskirts of the Indian capital Delhi on 2 May 2018Image copyrightAFP

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

“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,” 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.

The southern state of Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, was hit by more than 41,000 lightning strikes on Wednesday, reported news agency AFP – saying there had also been deaths in that state.

Map showing regions affected by dust storm

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

“I’ve been in office for 20 years and this is the worst I’ve 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 couldn’t 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.

India’s Meteorological Department said more storms were likely across a wider area before the weekend.

Dust storm in DelhiImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe dust storm also hit the capital Delhi
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