Freak Delhi thunderstorm kills three, uproots trees and brings traffic to a halt

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A man runs during sudden strong wind and rain in New Delhi on 30 May that uprooted many trees in and around the Indian capital (EPA)
A man runs during sudden strong wind and rain in New Delhi on 30 May that uprooted many trees in and around the Indian capital (EPA)

Three people were killed after sudden heavy rain and thunderstorms lashed India’s capital Delhi.

Hundreds of trees were uprooted as strong winds up to 60mph battered the city on Monday, damaging buildings, waterlogging roads and disrupting traffic.

This was the first storm seen in Delhi since 2018 that was of a “severe” intensity, even though thunderstorms and rain are common in the city from March to May, said an official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The rain and storm led to a drastic drop in temperatures across the city, which has been in the grip of a punishing summer due to extreme weather caused by climate change.

Temperatures in the capital dropped from a scorching 40C at 4.20pm to 25C at 5.40pm on Monday, as the city recorded 17.8mm of rain in just over an hour.

Police on Tuesday said the body of a man had been found from a waterlogged railway underpass in southeast Delhi’s Pul Prahladpur.

People walk past an uprooted tree on a street after a storm in New Delhi (AFP/Getty)
People walk past an uprooted tree on a street after a storm in New Delhi (AFP/Getty)

“The area was waterlogged due to heavy rainfall. Fire brigade and emergency rescue teams were also called to the spot. Divers from the rescue team searched for the man for half an hour before recovering his body,” deputy commissioner of police (southeast) Esha Pandey was quoted as saying to Press Trust of India.

Ms Pandey added that his body has been kept at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and efforts are under way to identify him.

“He had a tattoo on his hand that said ‘Kiran, I love you’,” Ms Pandey stated.

In central Delhi, a 50-year-old man identified only by his first name, Kailash, died at the Jama Masjid area during Monday’s storm after a portion of a balcony of his neighbour’s house fell on him when he stood outside his home.

In north Delhi, a 65-year-old homeless man identified as Basir Baba died after a tree fell on him, police said.

People move past fallen tree branches after heavy wind and rain in New Delhi (Reuters)
People move past fallen tree branches after heavy wind and rain in New Delhi (Reuters)

Strong winds also damaged several buildings including the historic Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century.

“The Kalas [finial] of the main dome fell off. It needs urgent repair to prevent further damages. Some stones of the mosque structure also loosened and fell off. I will write to the prime minister for immediate repair of the mosque roping in Archaeological Survey of India,” said Jama Masjid’s top cleric Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari.

The IMD also said at a news conference on Tuesday that a normal monsoon in the country was likely and that it could spur economic growth.

“At this stage, we can see that the rainfall is largely expected to be well distributed in most parts of the country,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the IMD.

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