A combination of violent wind gusts, dust clouds and smashing thunderstorms are devastating India, and it is only the beginning according to meteorologists.
The city of Agra — where the Taj Mahal is located — was ravaged, with at least 43 deaths recorded and another 51 people injured.
But the toll has tragically passed the 100-mark, with the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab worst affected.
Houses, trees and electrical poles came crashing down as winds reached 130 kilometres per hour. Dust clouds, lightning and forceful rains made the storms the most brutal in decades.
T.P. Gupta of the Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner’s office told AFP, the number of lost lives was “unprecedented”.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences, and says action is underway to help those suffering.
Saddened by the loss of lives due to dust storms in various parts of India. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.
Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected: PM
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) May 3, 2018
Incredibly, “severe thunderstorm activity” was accurately forecast by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in terms of when it would hit, but the issued warning was not for Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, but rather Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, further east.
Worryingly, the IMD says satellite images are showing wind pressure developing over Rajasthan, which could result in another dust storm with gale-force winds lashing the western state.
— Pratidin Time (@pratidintime) May 3, 2018
“There is a high probability that winds will intensify in the next 48 hours in Rajasthan, which may lead to another dust storm,” says scientist Himanshu Sharma, according to PTI.
“It will affect areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan border, especially Karauli and Dholpur.”
Storms more intense because of unusual heat wave
On Monday, Nawabshah in Pakistan’s Sindh province, which is just west of Rajasthan, recorded a world record April heat of 50.2 degrees Celsius.
Al Jazeera’s senior weather presenter, Richard Angwin, says the extreme temperatures could be to blame for the ferocity of the storms.
“Many other parts of Pakistan and northern India have been suffering the effects of extreme temperatures. It is therefore quite possible that the wind circulation induced by the heat low was more intense than normal,” Angwin explained.
“A trough of low pressure may also have introduced moisture into the atmosphere, encouraging thunderstorms to develop.”