By Maria Thomas
Extreme weather is once again wreaking havoc across India.
On May 13, at least 41 people were reportedly killed as heavy thunderstorms and dust storms struck Uttar Pradesh (UP), West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh, besides the capital city of New Delhi.
While a thunderstorm and hail left 21 people dead in UP, lightning reportedly killed 12 people in West Bengal and nine in Andhra Pradesh. Another two lost their lives in Delhi, where a strong dust storm accompanied by heavy rain and winds of up to 109 kmph uprooted nearly 200 trees and brought traffic to a standstill. The Indira Gandhi International Airport was reportedly forced to suspend operations for over two hours, and around 70 flights were diverted; parts of Delhi’s metro line were also stalled.
The latest storms come just a few weeks after a freak dust storm, the worst in at least 20 years, crushed houses in UP and Rajasthan, killing over 100 people and injuring many more. At around the same time, Andhra Pradesh was struck by over 4,000 bolts of lightning that killed 14 people in a single day.
The recent bad weather has been caused by the combination of a north-south trough (a low-pressure system) currently stretching from northwest Rajasthan to Maharashtra and a cyclonic circulation that is now over West Bengal, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). High temperatures have prompted heatwave conditions in many states and made the atmosphere more unstable, prompting the thunderstorms and heavy winds that have left a trail of destruction across India.
While temperatures are expected to come down once the pre-monsoon hits, the IMD has forecast more thunderstorms and heavy winds this week. On May 14 and 15, states such as Punjab, Haryana, UP, and West Bengal, besides Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu are all expected to be lashed by bad weather. And in its latest All-India Weather Warning Bulletin, the IMD also added that another dust storm was “very likely” in Rajasthan on May 14.
Weather experts say the intensity of these events is linked to the effects of rising temperatures. In recent years, average and extreme temperatures have been on the rise across India, and heatwaves have become even more deadly, especially in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With this spate of extreme weather aggravated by high temperatures, it’s clear that climate change is increasingly taking a toll on Indian lives.