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At least 76 people have died and scores more were injured in fierce dust storms that hit the northern Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The storms on Wednesday disrupted electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and killed livestock.

Many of the dead were sleeping when their houses collapsed after being struck by intense bursts of lightning.

Dust storms are common in this part of India during summer but loss of life on this scale is unusual.

The storms largely affected three districts in Rajasthan - Alwar, Bharatpur and Dholpur - where at least 31 people were killed. Officials say Alwar is worst affected. Schools in the district are closed.

"I've been in office for 20 years and this is the worst I've seen," Hemant Gera, secretary for disaster management and relief in Rajasthan, told the BBC.

 

 

 

"We had a high intensity dust storm on 11 April - 19 people died then - but this time it struck during the night so many people sleeping and couldn't get out of their houses when mud walls collapsed."

He said teams were trying to restore electricity to homes after 200 to 300 electricity poles were felled in the storm.

The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, said officials were heading to affected areas to start relief work.

The state government has also announced that families of the dead will receive 400,000 rupees (about $6,000; £4,400) as compensation

Forty-five people died in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, 36 of them in Agra district which is home to the Taj Mahal monument. Officials believe the death toll could increase.

Falling trees and walls killed many people in the state.

The storm also hit the capital Delhi, more than 100km (62 miles) away, along with heavy rains late on Wednesday evening.

 

Source: BBC

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