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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Dozens killed in powerful India dust storms

Storms ravage north of country, leaving more than 200 dead or injured

Dust storms have wrought havoc across northern India killing at least 90 people and injuring 143 as trees and walls were flattened by powerful winds.

The overnight storm ravaged Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states and the death toll was expected to rise, officials said on Thursday.

There were 46 confirmed deaths in Uttar Pradesh in the north and 31 in Rajasthan to the west.

The Agra district of Uttar Pradesh was one of the worst hit with more than 30 people killed. The Taj Mahal, which is turning brown in colour while under renovation, escaped damage.

Most of the victims were hit by collapsed walls, fallen trees and electric pylons.

"We can confirm at least 46 deaths, 41 injuries from around 40 of the state's 75 districts," said TP Gupta of the Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner's office.

He said there were 36 deaths in Agra district.

Officials said 157 animals were also killed across the state.

A a policeman directs traffic during a dust storm in New Delhi. Chandan Khanna / AFP Photo
A a policeman directs traffic during a dust storm in New Delhi. Chandan Khanna / AFP Photo

Three districts in Rajasthan, a state popular with tourists for its desert, palaces and colourful culture, were hit the hardest.

"Most of [the] 31 deaths and 102 injuries across our state were from three districts Alwar, Dholpur and Bharatpur," said Hemant Gera, Rajasthan's Disaster Management and Relief Department's secretary.

Power supply was cut in Bharatpur as more than 1,000 electricity pylons were destroyed. Officials said it could take more than two days to restore power.

The state government has released funds to compensate the families of those killed or suffered damage.

Heavy rain in Shimla in Himachal Pradesh state. AFP Photo
Heavy rain in Shimla in Himachal Pradesh state. AFP Photo

"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," Narendra Modi, the prime minister said on Twitter.

"Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected."

Last month, a storm killed at least 15 people in Uttar Pradesh and destroyed two ancient pillars at the gateway to the Taj Mahal.