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Dust, rainstorms in India kill at least 91, injure more than 160

A powerful dust storm and rain swept parts of north and western India overnight, causing house collapses, toppling trees, and leaving at least 91 people dead and more than 160 injured, officials said Thursday.

Most of the devastation has occurred in northern India in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh states

A woman walks with her face covered on Wednesday to avoid a dust storm in New Delhi, located between Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Northern India has been hit by powerful storms that have led to fatalities and damage to houses. (Rajat Gupta/EPA-EFE)

A powerful dust storm and rain swept parts of north and western India overnight, causing house collapses, toppling trees, and leaving at least 91 people dead and more than 160 injured, officials said Thursday.

The devastation was particularly severe on Wednesday night in Agra, the northern Indian city where the white marble Taj Mahal is located. Forty-three people died there as the wind speed touched 130 km/h, said Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar of Uttar Pradesh state.

There was no damage to the monument.

At least 64 people died and another 67 were injured in northern Uttar Pradesh state, Kumar said.

Hail, rain and high winds also cause severe damage and injuries 0:51

In the western state of Rajasthan, the Press Trust of India news agency said 27 others died and another 100 were injured. Most deaths were caused by house collapses and lightning.

The rainstorm caught people by surprise as the monsoon season is still more than six weeks away.

Uprooted trees flattened mud huts of the poor, Kumar said. Electricity supply and telephone lines were snapped in parts of Uttar Pradesh state, Kumar said.

Pollution woes

The storms come as the most recent air pollution data from the World Health Organization was released, a report that indicates that the world's 10 most polluted cities are Indian.

The air quality database for 2016 was released by WHO on Wednesday and showed the north Indian industrial city of Kanpur had the highest measured levels of PM2.5, or small particulate matter.

The Indian capital New Delhi and large parts of north India gasp for breath for most of the year due to vehicle fumes and swirling construction dust as well as coal and garbage fires lit by the poor to keep warm.

Some local studies indicate up to a third of Delhi's children have impaired lung function and respiratory diseases like asthma.