New Delhi: At least 71 people died in as many as five states after thunderstorms lashed parts of the country on Sunday night.
Thunderstorms have hit thrice in the last two weeks, leading to the deaths of at least 213 people.
Uttar Pradesh, where 42 people were killed and 84 injured on Sunday, once again bore the brunt of the storm. The toll has crossed 130 in the state in the last two weeks: 75 people lost their lives in the storm on 3 May and 15 died on 9 May.
According to the National Emergency Response Centre of the ministry of home affairs, on Sunday, 12 people died in Andhra Pradesh, 14 in West Bengal, two in Delhi and one in Uttarakhand.
Transport services in several places were affected for several hours in the evening, as winds speeds of up to 109 kmph uprooted trees and left a trail of destruction.
“The number of reported deaths over the last few days seems quite high," said V. Gopalakrishnan, a scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune.
Apart from weather-related factors that induced heavy winds followed by lightning, the peculiar nature of urbanization in the northern belt of the country could have contributed to the high number of casualties, he said.
The belt from Rajasthan to western UP is largely suburban. According to state officials, casualties were higher in rural and sub-urban areas.
“In heavily built-up areas, the effects of a thunderstorm get dissipated," said Gopalakrishnan. “But in sub-urban regions with a few isolated tall buildings, trunk power lines and walls that could collapse easily, the effect is more pronounced."
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a 48-hour alert for Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Sikkim and a weather alert for Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and North-eastern states for the next 24 hours.
According to the forecast, dust storms accompanied by squalls of 50-70kmph could hit isolated places in the region in the next 24 hours.
With fresh western disturbances on the way, IMD has also predicted scattered rainfall over isolated parts of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and heavy widespread rainfall over Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.