Freak dust storms leave 116 dead in northern India

AGRA: Lightning strikes and powerful dust storms across India have killed at least 116 people and injured more than 250 as meteorologists warned on Thursday of more wild weather on the horizon.
Dust clouds plunged swathes of north India into darkness as winds of more than 130 kilometres per hour brought down feeble mud houses and killed people where they slept.
Walls, trees and electricity pylons were torn down in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab states where officials said the death toll was expected to rise.
The destructive winds were followed by fierce lightning storms and rains.
Similar storms kill hundreds of people each year in India but these were some of the most severe in recent decades.
Shivam Lohia, who owns a resort hotel in Alwar district of Rajasthan, said he abandoned his car on the road and ran for his life after it was almost blown away.
“I haven’t seen such a devastating storm in at least 25 years. Everyone was scared and running for cover as trees and homes were getting blown away. It was a nightmare,” Lohia said.
There were 65 confirmed deaths in Uttar Pradesh in the north, 35 in the desert state of Rajasthan to the west, and two in Punjab from Wednesday’s wild storms.
The day before, at least 14 were killed in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh which was hammered by more than 41,000 lightning strikes in a matter of hours, disaster officials said.
Agra district of Uttar Pradesh was one of the worst hit by the dust clouds, with more than 40 people killed. The Taj Mahal is in Agra city but officials said the monument escaped damage. — AFP