More than 100 people were killed and at least 205 injured in the deadly dust storm that hit swathes of western and northern India on Wednesday. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan bore the maximum brunt of the squall that left a trail of destruction across the states, bringing down mud houses, uprooting trees and destroying crops.
Weather experts estimated that wind speeds touched 100 kilometres per hour, even as they said another dust storm might hit parts of UP and Rajasthan in the next 48 hours due to cyclonic circulation formation in the region. Of the casualties, many were caused by lightning, which struck at many places after the dust storm settled down. Here are all your questions answered:
What is a dust storm?
A dust storm is a strong, turbulent wind that carries clouds of fine dust, soil, and sand over a large stretch, which mainly occurs in arid and semi-arid regions. In case of a dust storm, due to excessive heating, the water from the clouds evaporates before it could land. So soil is dry and the severe winds lift this soil up to 500 metres above the land. While wind speed is normally around 50 kmph in a thunderstorm, in case of dust storm, it reaches up to 100 kmph and in some cases it can touch 130 kmph, making conditions severe.
Which states were affected?
The dust storm and subsequent heavy rainfall mainly affected west Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In UP, Agra district was the worst hit, while Bijnor, Bareli, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Firozabad, Chitrakoot, Muzaffarnagar, Rae Bareli and Unnao were also affected. In Rajasthan, the dust storm struck Bharatpur, Alwar and Dholpur districts.
Meanwhile, a nor’wester hit six districts of Odisha, killing three people. While two persons died when trees fell on them in Balasore and Bargarh districts, another died due to wall collapse in Mayurbhanj district during the squall last night.
How many people lost their lives in the dust storm?
Till last reports, about 100 people have lost their lives in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, while 205 were injured. Seventy people were killed in UP and 105 injured. In Rajasthan, 38 died and another 100 were injured in the storm that struck around 7 pm on Wednesday. Agra itself accounted for 43 of the total casualties in UP, while 51 others were injured. Three people died each in Bijnor and Kanpur Dehat (Rural)and one each in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Chitrakoot, Rae Bareli, Unnao, Mathura, Amroha, Kannauj, Banda, Kanpur city, Sitapur, Sambhal and Mirzapur.
In Rajasthan, Bharatpur district was the worst affected with 19 killed. Nine people died in Alwar and nine in Dholpur, officials said.
What was the situation in Delhi?
Squall and rains also hit Delhi on Wednesday, with wind speeds reaching 59 km per hour in the evenin. The maximum temperature, before the squall started was 36.4 degrees Celsius. By the time the rain ended four hours later, the temperature had dropped to 31.4 degrees Celsius. However, no damage to property or casualties were reported.
What was the trigger for the dust storm in Rajasthan and UP?
According to India Meteorological Department Additional Director General Mritunjay Mohapatra, there were primarily four reasons that lead to the dust storm – excessive heating, availability of moisture, instability in atmosphere and a trigger for the storm. “The north Indian plains have been witnessing temperatures of over 40 degree Celsius. There were two sources of moisture – a western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir and easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal,” Mohaptara said.
The cold winds from the western disturbance was making atmosphere unstable. “The trigger was a cyclonic circulation over Haryana,” Mohapatra said. This led to the formation of two cloud patches.
Is another dust storm on its way?
The MeT has forecasted that another dust storm may hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in the next 48 hours due to cyclonic circulation formation in the region. “There is a high probability that winds will intensify in the next 48 hours in Rajasthan, which may lead to another dust storm. It will affect areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan border, especially Karauli and Dholpur,” Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist Himanshu Sharma told PTI here.
The meteorological department has warned that a dust storm, rainfall or thunderstorm may occur at some areas in Bikaner, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli, Jhunjhunu, Swai Madhopur, Sikar, Sriganganagar and Jaisalmer districts. Satellite images have shown wind pressure developing in parts of Rajasthan, which may lead to high intensity winds and dust storm.
What was the damage caused due to the dust storm?
The dust storm across Rajasthan and UP brought down mud houses, uprooted trees and flattened crops. The subsequent thunder showers, snapped power lines and sent tin roofs and street hoardings flying. Power supply was cut off in many areas as the squall uprooted trees and snapped electricity cables. Officials said it was being gradually restored. In towns, the storm triggered traffic snarls. Some trains were delayed as overhead power cables broke. In rural areas, there were reports of crop being damaged due to hailstorm. Farmers lost cattle and poultry. UP Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar said 160 heads of cattle were lost.
How are relief operations progressing? How have ministers reacted?
Rajasthan’s Disaster Management secretary Hemant Kumar Gera said relief and rescue teams have been pressed into service to clear debris and restore power supply. Gera said contigency funds have been released to the respective district administration. He said Rs 4 lakh will be given to family members of deceased, Rs 2 lakh to persons sustaining 60 per cent injuries and Rs 60,000 to people with 40 to 50 per cent injuries.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is campaigning in Karnataka, directed officials to personally monitor relief operations, warning against any laxity. Reacting to the tragedy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the deaths and directed officials to coordinate with states to ensure speedy relief and rehabilitation. “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,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted quoting Modi.
What is the forecast for the next 48 hours?
Heavy rain is predicted likely at isolated places over Nagaland-Manipur-Mizoram-Tripura and south interior Karnataka. Thunderstorm accompanied with squall very likely at isolated places over West Bengaland Sikkim, Odisha and Uttarakhand. Thunderstorm accompanied with gusty winds very likely at isolated places over Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, east Rajasthan, Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh, north coastal Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, interior Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, and Kerala.
Heat wave conditions very likely to prevail at some places over west Rajasthan; one or two pockets over east Rajasthan, west Madhya Pradesh, north Madhya Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha. Duststorm/thunderstorm likely at isolated places over west Rajasthan.
(With PTI inputs)