Heavy rains and thunderstorms claimed 42 lives in western Uttar Pradesh and eastern Rajasthan on Wednesday (April 12) night. Most deaths occurred due to walls collapsing and short circuits in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan and Agra, Mathura and Firozabad districts of Uttar Pradesh. More than 200 people were reportedly injured.
April has brought a spell of devastating rains that has not only threatened the rabi crop but also caused loss of lives and damage to property across north and northwest India. Over the past two weeks, the entire region has seen spells of stormy weather and thundershowers. While the rains have brought respite to a thus far sweltering summer, they have also caused widespread damage in several regions.
The thundershowers and rains have been attributed to successive western disturbances that brought snowfall and rain in Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal towards the end of March and in the beginning of April. The thunderstorms were a result of the interaction of cold air sweeping into the north Indian plains where high temperatures created a low-pressure zone. The interaction between such columns of cold and hot air is known to manifest in intense storms, which is precisely what has been seen recently across the Indo-Gangetic plains.
Parts of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have experienced squall-like conditions with rain and strong winds. Arguably, the most devastating spell of pre-monsoon showers hit Eastern Rajasthan and Haryana where Alwar, Bharatpur and Bhiwani received 40mm, 15mm and 14mm of rains respectively, on Wednesday, April 11. While this may not seem much, these amounts account for nearly 900 per cent, 400 per cent and 250 per cent of the normal rain received by these districts in April. Several other districts across the entire region also received rains amid thundershowers. One such district is Dholpur in Rajasthan where 11 people were killed due to rain-related incidents. Five others reportedly lost their lives in incidents in Bharatpur.
Western Uttar Pradesh was hit by strong winds and thundershowers that damaged a minaret at the Taj Mahal. According to the IMD, rains across North and Central India have registered excesses of 131 per cent and 176 per cent compared to the average rainfall during the week. Despite this, cumulative pre-monsoon rains from March 1 to April 11 have been deficient by 31 and 42 per cent in North and Central India respectively, clearly indicating once again a disturbance in the normal distribution of the little rains that the entire region receives during this season.
While there are indications of withdrawal of the rainy spell due to the movement of the western disturbances, weather forecasting service SkyMet has warned of further rainfall around April 16 or 17 when a fresh western disturbance is expected to become active. While the IMD initially predicted rough weather only up to April 10, it has issued warnings for isolated thundershowers and squall-like conditions up to Friday. The IMD, too, has said that some rainfall is expected post April 15 in its two-week forecast issued on April 12.
The recent spells of rainfall have severely affected the rabi crop of wheat, particularly in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where farmers are claiming losses of 20-80 per cent. Wheat production was already expected to be hit by suppressed yields due to water stress caused by lack of winter and post-monsoon showers.