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India's north hit by deadly storm, church promises help

Strong winds hit urban areas destroying shanty shelters and stripping other buildings of their roofs

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India's north hit by deadly storm, church promises help

This photo taken on May 2 shows a tree that fell in high winds during a storm onto a vehicle in Bareilly in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state. (Photo by AFP)

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Church groups are assessing the impact of a deadly dust storm that hit six northern Indian states May 2, killing more than 130 people and injuring more than 300, mostly poor living in shanties.

India's most populous Uttar Pradesh state suffered the worst with 73 people killed when the storm struck at night time. At least 41 were killed in Rajasthan, 11 in West Bengal, six in Madhya Pradesh and two in Bihar, according to reports released by government agencies.

Heavy winds plowed through urban areas in these states destroying shanty shelters and mud houses while stripping other buildings of their roofs.

Most people were killed when their houses collapsed on top of them or were hit by flying objects.

Rain and thunderstorms continued the following day in some regions further south.

Father Jerish Antony, social work director in affected Ajmer Diocese in Rajasthan, said most people were sleeping when the dust storm hit and were caught by surprise.

"More deaths were reported in poor areas, where people lived in mud houses. Their houses collapsed and they died under the rubble," Father Antony said.

The storm cut electricity and communication systems which disrupted rescue efforts, Father Antony said.

Heavy rain followed the storm which prevented many of the injured from receiving prompt medical assistance increasing the death toll, the priest said.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said the church will do everything possible to assist those affected.  

Caritas India has assigned its local partners to assess the storm damage to help plan its relief efforts, said Anjan Bag, who manages humanitarian aid for the Catholic charity.

"We have started assessing the loss and our local partners and church groups are already working in the affected areas," Bag said.

"We will respond immediately after getting the initial report," he told ucanews.com.

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