Severe dust storms across India kill more than 100 people

More than 100 people and 160 animals have died in severe dust storms across northern India, as dust clouds were trailed by thunder and lightning storms 

Severe dust storms across northern India have killed more than 100 people, destroyed homes and uprooted trees.

Dust storms hit the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on Wednesday, disrupting electricity and even killing livestock.

Many of the dead were sleeping when their houses collapsed after being struck by intense bursts of lightning.

At least 64 people have died in Uttar Pradesh state, most of them in Agra district where the Taj Mahal is located. Another 35 are confirmed to have died in Rajasthan and two each in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. The death toll in all four states could still rise.

At least 160 animals also died in the storms, according to officials in Uttar Pradesh.

The dust clouds were trailed by thunder and lightning storms, heavy rain and strong winds that were expected to last another 24 hours at least.

The dust storms are created by a rapid ascent of warm air, which creates a vacuum that air closer to the ground rushes to fill, taking sand and dust with it.

Meteorologists said abnormally high temperatures in past weeks had contributed to the disaster. “It can be called a freak accident,” Mahesh Palawat, a meteorologist at the private forecaster Skymet Weather told the Hindustan Times.

“Dust storms are usually not this intense nor do these systems cover such a large area.”

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

 “Condolences to the bereaved families,” he tweeted. “May the injured recover soon.”

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

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