LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Powerful winds and rainstorms swept across a crowded swath of northern India, demolishing houses, uprooting trees and killing at least 43 people as the winds turned the skies brown with dust and sand, officials said Monday.
Most of the deaths occurred when wind and falling trees caused buildings to collapse, leaving people buried in the wreckage. In the town of Bareilly, the minaret of a mosque fell on a group of people taking shelter in a neighboring courtyard, killing eight. In another town, one man was killed when he was hit by a billboard that had been blown loose. Along highways, large trucks were pushed over by the winds, crushing cars and motorcycles beneath them.
Less than two weeks ago, similar storms caused 134 deaths and injured another 400. The extreme weather comes amid withering summer heat, and approaching monsoon rains.
“These storms are not unusual at this time of the year,” said J.P. Gupta, the meteorological office director for Uttar Pradesh state. “But the wind speed this year is a bit abnormal.”
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Winds reached speeds 109 kilometers (68 miles) per hour Sunday, officials said. Trains and commuter rail lines were paused and dozens of flights were diverted from New Delhi’s international airport as the storm blew into the city.
At least 42 people were killed in sprawling Uttar Pradesh state, which has a population of more than 210 million people, said government spokesman Avnish Awasthi. He said 50 people were injured when uprooted trees fell on houses, with 38 of those people admitted to hospitals. At least one more person was killed in New Delhi.
A large swath of Uttar Pradesh was also without electricity overnight because of broken power lines.
Rajesh Sharma, a senior state official, estimated that more than 120 million people in the state had been affected in some way.
“Saddened by the loss of lives due to storms,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. “Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured.”
Separately, at least 13 people were killed by storms elsewhere in India, including nine in Andhra Pradesh and four in West Bengal.