More than a hundred people were killed in northern Indian after fierce dust storms lashed several densely populated areas. The country’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, saw the highest number of casualties, with at least 64 killed, mostly in the city of Agra. The neighboring state of Rajasthan also reported several deaths due to the dust storm.
Dust storms of this ferocity are rare in north India, and have not been known to cause so many deaths in the recent past. As temperatures soar upwards of 45 degrees Celsius, they are known to cause deaths due to heat strokes and dehydration. However, Wednesday’s storms led to trees being uprooted and houses in slums to collapse, killing scores.
According to reports, the minarets of the gates of the historic Taj Mahal were also damaged by the storms.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has declared compensation of 400,000 rupees (US$6,000) for the next of kin of those who died.
The neighboring state of Rajasthan, largely covered by the Thar desert, reported 34 fatalities as of Wednesday evening. The districts of Dholpur, Bharatpur and Alwar were the worst affected.
According to meteorological reports, the dust storms were also accompanied by unusually heavy rains in some parts. There are also reports that the entire district of Alwar plunged into darkness as the power grid collapsed in several places.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief on Twitter over the loss of lives.