India dust storm death toll rises to more than 140 people as survivors tell how 80mph winds carrying choking sand hit so quickly they had no time to escape falling walls and trees
- The storms tore through the populous provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan causing carnage throughout
- Many of the deaths were caused by falling walls and trees which struck people as they were bowled over
- Thousands of electricity poles were uprooted in the storms causing outages across large areas of the network
- Families of the dead will receive £4,400 as compensation with very seriously injured people getting £2,200
The death toll from freak storms that hit India climbed above 140 on Friday as people told how they had no time to escape the ferocious winds which tore down homes and toppled walls.
The overnight storms ravaged the territories of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on Wednesday – leaving hordes of people homeless and many people trapped by debris.
More than 20 people were killed in a single village, Kheragarh, in the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh state, where a number of homes were knocked down by the storm.
Most of the victims were hit by falling walls and trees as powerful winds struck hundreds of towns and villages.
The dust clouds plunged swathes of north India into darkness as winds of more than 130 kilometres per hour.
Many people were sleeping as intense bursts of lightning destroyed their houses overnight as they became trapped inside.
Relief workers are battling to clear debris in affected areas and provide urgent medical care to those injured in the storms – amid warnings the storms are set to continue.
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A man stands near his demolished house on the outskirts of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal monument, on Friday morning
The village of Kheragarh was one of the worst hit in the Agra area – with a score of homes and public buildings obliterated by the storm
More than 20 people were killed in Kheragarh by falling debris from buildings and uprooted trees plummeting to the ground
Fierce winds which peaked at over 130 kilometers per hour stripped houses of their brickwork and sent walls crashing down
Relatives of a 24-year-old man who was crushed to death after the ceiling of a building fell in on top of him in Kheragarh
Hundreds of power cables were severed leaving thousands in rural communities completely bereft of vital electricity supplies
‘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,’ 40-year-old Agra resident Munna Lal Jha told AFP.
Ram Bhorosi told how his son and a nephew died when their house caved in as they welcomed people who had attended his daughter’s wedding.
‘We had guests at home and my son went inside the room to get a bed when the storm struck,’ he said.
‘A big stone crushed his head after the roof collapsed. His cousin was also caught under the crumbling roof. Half a dozen men helped us to clear the rubble to take out bodies. They didn’t get time to raise the alarm, it was so sudden.’
In nearby Burera village, Anil Kumar told of his narrow escape when their house fell.
‘We were sitting outside when the winds suddenly started raging. Four of us were crushed under the debris after the wall fell. My grandfather died but the others survived with injuries.’
Neighbours look through the wedding pictures of 24-year-old Sunil Kumar who died after getting crushed under the debris of a ceiling that fell in
Villagers inspecting the caved-in roof of a building in Kheragarh which killed 24-year-old Sunil Kumar who was in the room below
Thousands of animals used as livestock were killed and injured in the storms as they were left outside to deal with the winds
Commuters struggled to deal with the smog being forced to cover their eyes and mouths so as not to inhale the thick layer of dust
Hundreds of people were left needing treatment as they sustained wounds from falling objects with doctors rushing to save them
A an is lifted from the rubble of his own home after the storm destroyed the house in Agra, Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday night
Enormous lightning strikes set fire to houses and destroyed them completely sending walls and ceilings caving in as people slept
Falling trees squashed cars and houses in several towns as many were killed by the tumbling branches in Uttar Pradesh
Hemant Gera, secretary for disaster management and relief in Rajasthan, told the BBC the storms were ‘the worst he’d seen for 20 years’.
‘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 Gora said.
The state government has announced that families of the dead will receive 400,000 rupees (about $6,000; £4,400) as compensation.
200,000 rupees (about $3,000 or £2,200) will also be given to those who were seriously injured in the catastrophe.
‘We can confirm at least 46 deaths, 41 injuries from around 40 of the state’s 75 districts,’ T.P. Gupta of the Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner’s office told AFP.
The Agra district of Uttar Pradesh, home to the Taj Mahal monument, was one of the worst hit, according to media reports.
There were 46 confirmed deaths in Uttar Pradesh in the north and 31 in Rajasthan to the west.
The local government in Uttar Pradesh government has reportedly sounded an alert for the next 48 hours.
The winds were so powerful that even solid brick walls fell victim to the storm as houses across the north of the country crumbled
Doctors and volunteers worked tirelessly to try and help those injured in the freak weather tragedy as hospitals became highly crowded
Falling telephone wires caused total power outages in many regions as relief workers battled to restore the electricity supply
Torrential rain followed the dust storm and made accessing the affected areas even more difficult for emergency services
Among the worst affected areas were the northern states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where hundreds of people were injured
The storm also hit the capital Delhi, more than 100km (62 miles) away, along with heavy rains late on Wednesday evening.
A dramatic video, posted on Twitter, showed a thick layer of dust blanketing the Delhi skyline – hundreds of miles away from the centre of the storm.
Tweeting his condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had directed central officials to coordinate with respective state governments for relief work.
‘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,’ he tweeted.
‘Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected.’
The government said there were still storm warnings out in several Indian territories for the next few days as India’s monsoon season is just six weeks away
Traffic in Delhi was brought to a standstill as first dust then rain played havoc with transport systems and left the city’s transport networks paralysed
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government would be coordinating with local authorities to provide relief
The storm also killed thousands of animals – leaving scores of people across India without vital livestock like their sheep
Among the dead animals were hundreds of parrots pictured here lying dead alongside a fallen tree in the state of Rajasthan
The dust storms tore through several northern Indian towns, smashing down structures with powerful winds and leaving people struggling to breathe
The storm even made it as far north-west as Peshawar province in Pakistan (pictured) where similar problems were experienced
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