A violent cyclonic storm left a trail of death and destruction in Jharkhand and West Bengal on Saturday, taking the toll from two days of inclement weather sweeping in from across India’s northwest to more than 40.
At least 10 people were killed in West Bengal and another eight in Jharkhand. Most of the dead were either struck by lightning or crushed under uprooted trees. The storm hit both states early in the morning. In Jharkhand, a large number of electricity poles were uprooted, affecting power supply in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh, Latehar and some other districts.
Overnight, 14 people were killed in thunderstorm in Uttar Pradesh and as many perished in Delhi where dusty winds touching 90 kmph uprooted hundreds of trees and snapped power lines, leaving parts of the capital without electricity for as long as 20 hours besides affecting air and road traffic.
Meteorological officials said the tall thunderstorms and high-speed dusty winds that have been sweeping across India’s north to the east were being caused by western disturbances currently over Pakistan.
“The meeting of cold air and hot air on the Indo-Gangetic plains causes low pressure area and also lot of instability. This results in severe thunderstorm,” IMD Director General L.S. Rathore said.
Indian weather officials said intense heat and cyclonic conditions in north India were likely to persist for the next few days. During Friday night's storm in Delhi, many areas plunged into darkness as high-speed winds snapped power lines. Metro train services were disrupted for about an hour due to power failure while some flights had to be diverted from the dust-shrouded capital.
India's new energy minister, Piyush Goyal, worked through the night to tackle not only Delhi’s power cuts caused by the storm but also provide more electricity to Uttar Pradesh that is suffering outages in sweltering summer heat.
While the power situation in Delhi began to return to normal on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh continued to reel under outages of up to 12 hours a day as temperatures soared and were expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius in Lucknow on Saturday.
After a bout of blame game between the UP government and the Centre, Goyal said the state’s request for an extra 325 megawatts of power would be met by the state-run NTPC by Saturday morning.
UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has alleged that the central government is not making available enough fuel for the power companies in the state.
In a letter to Goyal on Friday, Yadav said: "Of the total 6,200 MW sanctioned to the state from central pool, state is only getting 4,200 MW. Before the Lok Sabha polls, state was given 5,200 MW power in this head.
Peak demand for power in Uttar Pradesh is around 12,700 MW, around 2,000 MW in excess of supply that has been available until now due to power station shutdowns and delays in buying coal stocks, the government says.