Violent dust storms sweep Northern India

High-intensity dust storms uprooted trees and caused buildings to collapse across India's northern states, resulting in multiple deaths.

Posted: May 4, 2018 10:34 AM
Updated: May 4, 2018 10:36 AM

Indian authorities have warned citizens they are facing five days of isolated thunderstorms and high winds, after dangerous weather left more than 114 people dead across northern parts of the country.

Since Wednesday, fierce winds and lightning strikes created by a powerful dust storm have led to the deaths of scores of people in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, and injured hundreds more, according to local officials.

The Indian Meteorological Department said more high winds, dust storms and isolated thunderstorms were forecast for the affected areas in the next five days.

Hemant Gera, an official with the Rajasthan disaster management and relief department, said a yellow-category warning had been issued for the state for the next five days. Yellow means "be aware," if the warning is raised to red or orange, then residents need to take action to protect themselves.

Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner Sanjay Kumar told CNN affiliate News 18, "today and tomorrow in some parts of western Uttar Pradesh, we are expecting thunderstorms ... the authorities have been told to be on alert (for greater) loss of life so that they can respond."

"From the state level we are monitoring and we are trying to get satellite imagery data also to alert, and disseminate information to the villages," he added. "I think this is one of the most disastrous [storms] in recent times, as far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned."

JP Gupta, director at India Meteorological Department Lucknow, said most of Uttar Pradesh will be "clear of any dust storms."

"What happened on May 2, that's not expected for now at least for the next three, four days," said Gupta, who described the previous storm as a convergence of unique factors, including strong easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal interacting with an area of low pressure.

Falling debris

Electricity poles have been downed and trees uprooted across the region, leaving many households without power. Water shortages have also been reported.

Many of the deaths occurred as a result of falling debris and collapsing walls. "When the storm came, the walls of the upper floor fell down onto the first floor," Ramesh Mistri, who lives in Jhunjhunu district in India's western state of Rajasthan, told News 18.

Mistri was injured when the wall fell. "There were seven of us sitting in the house and everyone got crushed by the walls," he added.

Pura Ram, another Rajasthan resident, told the broadcaster, "first the walls from the upper level fell down. Along with that, our roof also fell down and broke into pieces."

According to News 18, no warnings of "severe thunderstorm activity" were issued for Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan before the storms hit, even though they were in place for other states. Other weather warnings were issued which covered northern India.

CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman said while there may be some more storms in the north, these will likely not be of the same scope as what occurred earlier this week.

He advised people in affected areas to "stay alert of changing weather conditions, avoid sleeping unprotected outdoors, and prepare to get to higher ground in the event of heavy rain."

"Unfortunately the majority of fatalities from this past week were in rural areas where (a) knowledge of threats is limited; and (b) shelter options are few," he said.

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