As India temperatures in northern India near 50 C, 47 die in storms

AFP-JIJI

Fierce storms which swept across northern India have killed at least 47 people, taking the death toll from freak weather over the past month to several hundred, officials said Tuesday.

The storms and lightning strikes toppled walls and power pylons or electrocuted victims, as temperatures in India rose as high as 48.6 degrees Celsius (119.5 Fahrenheit).

Disaster management officials in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand said 47 people had died in night-time storms that swept across the region.

Bihar was the worst hit after it was pounded by strong winds and thunderbolts.

“At least 19 people have been confirmed dead, 11 of them due to lightning,” Yoginder Singh, a Bihar state disaster management official, said.

The wild weather extended into neighboring Uttar Pradesh, where winds of up to 70 kph (43 mph) an hour buffeted India’s most populous state.

“Fifteen people were killed by overnight lightning and high-speed winds,” said T.P. Gupta of the Uttar Pradesh disaster management department.

Another 10 people were injured, some with burns after being struck by lightning, he added.

Many people in rural India sleep outdoors during the summer to escape the searing heat, making them more vulnerable to storms.

Nearly 200 people have died in Uttar Pradesh this month in powerful sandstorms. Scores have died in other states.

In Jharkhand, east of Bihar, 13 people died and six were injured in violent weather overnight Monday, said Sushil Kumar, the head of the state’s disaster management department.

The Indian Meteorological Department has warned that more storms and heavy rain could hit Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the next two days.

Extreme heat has also gripped many parts of India, with a high of 48.6 degrees recorded Monday in Khajuraho in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

In Delhi and much of northern India, daytime temperatures have been above 40 C for the past week.

Weather experts said there will be some respite this week after the annual monsoon season began in the southern state of Kerala on Tuesday. The monsoon will gradually move north.

Storms are customary during the summer months but the intensity and death toll has been higher than normal this year.