As many as 124 people have lost their lives due to thunderstorms and lightning in five states in the last two days, the Home Ministry said on Friday. The highest 73 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh, 35 killed in Rajasthan, eight in Telangana, six in Uttarakhand and two in Punjab. A fresh warning has been issued about a possible thunderstorm accompanied with squall which may hit four states – West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, today. Meanwhile, an Indian Meteorological Department official has predicted another dust storm in parts of Rajasthan and UP over the next two days.
The magnitude of the destruction can be gauged from the fact the dust storm caught the eye of the international media as well. Noted US daily The Washington Post reported that “Homes and businesses now lay in rubble littered with downed trees and electrical lines…Livestock are dead. Schools are closed.” BBC also depicted the trail of destruction.”High-speed winds and lightning have devastated many villages, brought down walls and left scores injured,” it said. An Agra resident narrated the harrowing experience to AFP. “We couldn’t sleep and were worried if the storm hits again. We took precautions and secured everything but nothing can stand up to nature’s fury,” the man said.
The dust storm on Wednesday left behind a trail of destruction killing at least 109 people and injuring nearly 200. While Uttar Pradesh is the worst hit with 73 casualties, Dholpur in Rajasthan bore the maximum glare of this storm. As the wind speeds crossed 100 kmph, mud houses fell apart, trees were uprooted and crops were damaged. The storm was followed by thundershowers.
The destruction that nature’s fury left behind was caused by a spell of intense heat. Due to the summer, several parts of the country experience a build-up of surface heat. The places which were hit by this dust storm had witnessed an intense heat-wave last week. According to Dr Mrutunjay Mohapatra of India Meteorological Department, the natural phenomenon arises out of a local “instability” arising out of a deviation from the normal temperature. The difference of temperature between the upper and lower layers of atmosphere leads to conducive conditions for a thunderstorm. The final trigger came from the circulation system that developed over Rajasthan a couple of days ago, reported The Indian Express.
Dust storm has caused more deaths in the past although lightning seems to be the main destroyer. But Wednesday’s dust storm was unique in the sense that events occurred over a large geographical area within a very short time. That’s why an early warning or accurate prediction become crucial. According to the IE report, the Met department had issued a “severe thunderstorm activity” warning for several places, but none were in these two states days before the deadly dust storm eventually hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The dust storm has brought political parties together as PM Narendra Modi, UP CM Yogi Adityanath and his Rajasthan counterpart Vasundhara Raje have expressed grief even as Congress President Rahul Gandhi has directed party workers to offer all possible help to the families of those affected by the natural phenomenon.
Here are the top developments on the aftermath of the dust storm and thundershowers that hit North and West India in the past two days:
1. Seventy-three people were killed in UP and 91 injured, officials said. Agra district was the worst hit in the state where at least 43 people have died while the number of injured persons stood at 51. Parts of Uttar Pradesh and districts adjacent to Rajasthan, such as Muzaffarnagar, Unnao, Bijnor, Bareli, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Firozabad, Chitrakoot and Rae Bareli suffered the maximum impact of the dust storm.
2. 36 people lost lives in Rajasthan and another 100 were injured as winds over 100 kmph hit the region at around 7 pm. In the state, Bharatpur district was the worst affected with 19 killed. Nine people died in Alwar and eight in Dholpur, officials said. Two of those killed in Dholpur were from Agra in Uttar Pradesh.
3. According to Uttarakhand Disaster Management Centre, four people were killed and eight others were injured in the dust storm in the state. Two people were killed in Udham Singh Nagar, one in Almora and Haridwar. The impact was visible in Ramnagar and Haldwani, The Indian Express reported today.
4. The Met department yesterday predicted another dust storm in parts of Rajasthan and UP in the next 48 hours. A Met official in Jaipur has informed PTI that the department had been issuing dust storm warnings for the past couple of days. IMD Additional Director General Mritunjay Mohapatra said the trigger for the storm was a cyclonic circulation over Haryana. But also responsible was a western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir, and easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal, according to dust-storm experts.
5. Power supply was cut off in many areas as the squall uprooted trees and snapped electricity cables. In Rajasthan alone, 13,000 electricity poles fell and about 100 transformers were damaged. Officials said power was being gradually restored. In towns, the storm triggered traffic snarls. Some trains were delayed as overhead power cables broke. In rural areas, there were reports of the crop being damaged due to the hailstorm. Farmers lost cattle and poultry. UP Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar said 165 heads of cattle were lost. In Rajasthan, about 250 animals perished.
6. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the deaths and directed officials to coordinate with states to ensure speedy relief and rehabilitation. “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,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted quoting Modi.
7. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was in poll-bound Karnataka on Thursday, campaigning with Modi. He directed officials to personally monitor relief operations and warned against any laxity. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje expressed grief over the calamity and said district authorities have been directed to ensure all possible help to victims. She will visit the storm-hit areas on Friday.
8. “The dust storms have claimed several lives in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. We stand with the grieving families in this hour of grief. There is one tragic incident in Motihari too,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted yesterday. “I urge local Congress workers, colleagues from Seva Dal to support and offer every help possible,” he said.
9. Rajasthan government has announced compensation for the victims. Family members of those dead will get Rs 4 lakh as compensation, and those injured will get between Rs 60,000 and Rs 2 lakh.
10. Meteorological predictions are considered for broad geographical areas and timeframes. It is not yet possible to predict a thunderstorm or lightning at a village or a part of a city. The exact times these events will hit, too, cannot be predicted. Alerts and warnings are in the nature of a general advisory, telling the people to expect these events, and to take precautions, IE report says.