(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Thunderstorm leaves a trail of death and destruction in 5 states

  • Rajasthan, where 25 people died in last 24 hours, bore the brunt, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat
  • The western disturbance that caused Tuesday’s storm will weaken within next 24 hours

NEW DELHI: Extreme weather events continued to wreak havoc across the country, with intense thunderstorm claiming more than 50 lives on Tuesday.

Rajasthan bore the brunt of the storm, with 25 people dying in the past 24 hours, according to the ministry of home affairs. As many as 14 people died in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Gujarat, and 2 in Bihar as gusty winds swept the region. In Maharashtra, the toll reached 14 since 4 April, the ministry said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a grant of 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those who lost their lives from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, and 50,000 each for those injured because of the unseasonal rains and storm on Tuesday.

“There has been serious damage to life and property and crops in some states, including Gujarat. We are monitoring the situation. We had issued an advisory asking people to take shelter indoors," said a senior home ministry official requesting anonymity.

(Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint)

The severe weather was caused by an intense western disturbance that impacted northwest India from 15 April. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued advance warning for thunderstorms in several states.

The western disturbance was strengthened by moisture incursion from the Arabian Sea, as well as from the Bay of Bengal, and the confluence occurred over central India on 16 and 17 April, which fuelled intense thunder activity, according to Met officials.

In Gujarat, the regions of Mehsana and Banaskantha witnessed the maximum damage, followed by Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Morbi, and Patan. Jhalawad and Baran were the most affected areas in Rajasthan.

The western disturbance has moved eastwards and the resultant reduction in moisture incursion from the Arabian Sea will also weaken the intensity of the system within the next 24 hours, according to the latest forecast by the government’s weather department.

However, the forecast indicates fairly widespread rainfall with isolated thunderstorms, lightning and winds gusting up to 40-50kmph over north-western states till Thursday.

There could be isolated thundersquall and hailstorms over east Madhya Pradesh, north Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura.

A fresh western disturbance is likely to affect the western Himalayan region from 23 April, said IMD.

India is witnessing a rise in high-impact weather events, including intense thunderstorms and dust storms in the pre-monsoon season.

Last year, thunderstorms had claimed 166 lives in Uttar Pradesh in April-May, and 75 in Jharkhand in June-July.

Dust storms had claimed more than 150 lives in Uttar Pradesh and adjoining parts of Rajasthan in May last year.

The rise in instances of such thunderstorms and dust storms are manifestations of climate change, said weather scientists.

Studies show that the global warming across the globe is leading to an increase in the number and intensity of western disturbances, which hit the western Himalayan region, and the impact is being felt much farther into the plains in the form of heavy rain and thunderstorms. According to IMD, 2018 was the sixth warmest year on record.