India

India dust storms: More than 125 killed as storms continue

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Media captionThe storms destroyed homes and uprooted trees

At least 125 people are now reported to have died in fierce dust storms in northern India, with officials warning of more bad weather to come.

High-speed winds and lightning devastated many villages, bringing down walls and leaving dozens injured.

An Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner's office spokesperson told AFP news agency the death toll was the highest from such storms in at least 20 years.

Officials have said the death toll could rise as more bodies are found.

Wind speeds were around 132 km/h (82mph) accompanied by hail storms and heavy lightning, officials said.

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


Fear amid the ruins

Salman Ravi, BBC Hindi

Villagers in Badhera, in the worst affected district of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, say they had had absolutely no warning of the storm that devastated their homes.

This is despite senior police officials saying that an alert was issued across the northern state.

The storm killed three people in the village, while several others were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Ten-year-old Abhishek Kumar was asleep with his family when the storm struck. Their house collapsed, trapping him and his brother in the debris. Villagers dug them out but while Abhishek survived, his brother did not.

Dhambi Singh also suffered injuries but had to leave hospital to perform the last rites for his father who died when the roof of their house caved in.

Villagers are now worried as they have been warned that a similar storm could strike the region again in the next 72 hours.


"People should be alert," the relief commissioner's office told AFP.

In the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the storm brought down electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and killed livestock.

The district of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, home of the Taj Mahal monument, was one of the areas worst hit.

The storms also affected three districts in neighbouring Rajasthan state - Alwar, Bharatpur and Dholpur.

Many of the dead were sleeping indoors when their houses collapsed after being struck by lightning or gusts of wind.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he was saddened by the loss of life.

The Uttar Pradesh government announced that families of those who died would receive 400,000 rupees ($6,000; £4,400) as compensation.

The southern state of Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile was also hit by storms on Wednesday, also resulting in many deaths.

Authorities said they had been shocked by the ferocity of the storms.

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Media captionWhy have India dust storms been so bad?

"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 were sleeping and couldn't get out of their houses when mud walls collapsed."

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