A heavy dust storm swept across several parts of western and northern India on Wednesday, killing at least 68 people and injuring hundreds in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and leaving a trail of destruction, uprooting trees and disrupting power supply in Punjab and Haryana as well.
At least 45 people were killed in four districts of western Uttar Pradesh. 36 people were killed in Agra, three in Bijnore, two in Saharanpur and one in Bareilly, state government officials said.
Bharatpur suffered the maximum damage in Rajasthan in terms of loss to life as 12 people were killed in the district. Six people died in neighbouring Dholpur in the high-speed dust storm that started around 7pm and wreaked havoc for two hours.
Four deaths were reported from Alwar and one each from Jhunjhunu and Bikaner.
Most deaths occurred in house collapse due to the storm, officials in Rajasthan said.
Uttarakhand Disaster Mitigation & Management Centre (DMMC) said at least two people were killed in Kumaon and few more injured in other parts after rains and thunderstorm lashed the hill state on Wednesday night.
A squall and dust storm followed by heavy rain also lashed New Delhi on Wednesday evening and caused traffic snarls in some parts of the national capital.
Normal life was also hit in many places in Punjab and Haryana, including Chandigarh, on Wednesday after a high-velocity dust storm. Light to moderate rains also lashed many places.
Thunderstorm, rains in Uttar Pradesh
At least 42 people were killed and dozens of others injured in thunderstorm and rains in four districts of western Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday night.
The state government officials said 36 people were killed in Agra, three in Bijnore, two in Saharanpur and one in Bareilly. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath directed the district magistrates of the four districts to carry out relief and rescue operations immediately.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje condoled the deaths and said in a series of tweets that she has directed ministers and officials in the affected areas to begin relief work and restore utilities.
“An unfortunate incident, we have been working closely with local authorities to mitigate the situation,” Raje tweeted.
“Shri Gulabchand Kataria ji shall be monitoring situation at Alwar, Shri Arun Chaturvedi ji in Dholpur; Shri Kalicharan Saraf in Bharatpur & Shri Surendrapal Singh ji in Jhunjhunu. The Govt. stands firmly with its people in this time,” she added.
The storm left a trail of destruction and uprooted hundreds of trees and electricity poles.
Bharatpur divisional commissioner Subir Kumar said a compensation of Rs 50,000 will be given to families of the those killed in the dust storm from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
The storm also caused major destruction in Alwar where more than 100 trees were uprooted, many of which fell on stationary vehicles and snapped electricity cables. The power distribution company switched off electricity to prevent further damage.
Alwar’s collector Rajan Vishal confirmed three deaths in the district and said Rakesh Sharma and Mukesh Mahajan were killed in Alwar city and Bhagwani in Bansur.
“Twenty injured have been admitted to the trauma ward in the government hospital in Alwar,” he said.
The collector said a survey of the damaged property has also been ordered as thunderstorm is in the list of national calamities. Private schools in Alwar city are closed on Thursday.
In Uttarakhand, the sudden rains also halted the ongoing Char Dham pilgrimage. Officials, however, said debris from the roads were cleared particularly in Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts.
There were reports of a cloudburst in Narayan Bagar of Chamoli as the rainwater brought tons of debris. Police in Chamoli, however, denied the cloudburst.
“Some vehicles were trapped as the rains and debris blocked the Badrinath highway. The highway has been cleared now,” it said in an official communiqué.
The storm uprooted many trees and snapped electricity supply in state capital Dehradun.
Villages in the Jaunpur area near Mussoorie were also reeling in the dark. Reports suggest electricity and water supply has also been affected in Nainital, Haldwani and several other remote locations.
Weather department officials said the downpour and thunderstorm are expected to continue for another 48 hours especially in the hilly regions like Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts.
A fresh western disturbance is approaching and likely to affect the western Himalayan region from May 5, the Meteorological Centre, Uttarakhand warned.
Apart from traffic snarls, 15 flights, including two international, were diverted due to the bad weather, airport officials in Delhi said.
A squall with a wind speed of 59 km per hour hit the city in the evening, the met department said. The Safdarjung observatory, whose recording is considered the official figure for Delhi, recorded 13.4mm rainfall.
The weather office has forecast overcast skies along with the possibility of a drizzle on Thursday.
“The maximum and minimum temperatures are expected to hover at 36 and 26 degrees Celsius respectively,” the weatherman said.
Many parts of Punjab including Mohali, Zirakpur, Patiala, Ludhiana and Muktsar were hit by the dust storm. The storm, with wind speed exceeding 45 kmph, hit Chandigarh during the afternoon, forcing vehicles to move with their headlights on as visibility level reduced considerably.
Panchkula, Karnal, Mahendergarh and Ambala were among the other places in Haryana that were hit by the dust storm.
There were reports of trees being uprooted on several roads in the region while power supply was also hit for a brief period due to the storm.
The met department said the maximum temperatures dropped at many places in the region after dust storm and rain.