On Thursday, 3 May 2018, severe dust storms and thunderstorms hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Overnight, these winds of over 100 kmph destroyed houses and uprooted trees and poles. More than 100 people lost their lives in both these states, while about 200 were injured.
Narendra Sharma, the SHO (Station House Officer) of the Kheragarh police station in Agra spoke to the Times of India about his experience.
“Concrete houses came down like [a] pack of cards one after the other. The winds flattened trees, streetlights and anything taller than a few feet. We took out victims from [the] debris of houses and ferried them to hospitals on motorcycles.”
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (MeT), there are high chances of another storm hitting the states in the next 48 hours due to the formation of a cyclonic circulation in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
.@Eumetsat Meteosat-8 #Satellite captures the recent #duststorm in India in ‘dust RGB’ imagery on 2 May 2018. The dust (shown as magenta) appears to be picked up from the west and carried over #Rajasthan and #UttarPradesh. pic.twitter.com/044zB3oM9f
— Met Office Science (@MetOffice_Sci) May 3, 2018
Speaking to PTI, an official of the Meteorological Department said, “There is a high probability that winds will intensify in the next 48 hours in Rajasthan, which may lead to another dust storm. It will affect areas located in Uttar Pradesh and the Rajasthan border, especially Karauli and Dholpur.”
In case you are in an area hit by a dust storm, here is what you can do to protect yourself.
1. Look for shelter:
Try searching for an enclosure near you. If you cannot find a concrete house or a room, even a parked car can protect you. Make sure that the car is not in a position to get hit by other cars or flying objects. You can also try looking for a “shield” and point it in the direction of the wind. These options may not be your safest bet, but it is better to shield yourself than have no protection at all.
If you are driving a car, please pull over immediately and park near a concrete building that may act as a shield for you.
2. Shield yourself from debris:
Dust storms or sandstorms have uprooted trees and poles. If you are caught in such a situation, you need to protect yourself from flying objects and debris. Search for a wooden or metal plank to use as a shield. If you cannot find it in your vicinity, stay as low to the ground as possible and shield yourself with a bag, pillow etc. Make sure your head is covered—shield it with your arms at least.
Remember, the storm will usually make objects fly away from the ground. Stooping low to the ground reduces the risk of getting hit by flying objects.
3. Save yourself from the sand:
Sand may seem harmless on a beach, but when it is propelled by high-speed winds, it can cause serious harm to your skin. Ensure that your body somehow has adequate protection from debris and sand and make sure that any exposed parts are covered with cloth. If there is a mask lying around, cover your nose and mouth with it, and if you have goggles or glasses, put them on immediately. You need your eyes to survive the storm.
4. How to protect your nose when the air is harsh:
Just covering your nose with a mask will not be enough. The air that you are breathing is impure and putting a mask, may result in suffocation. You need to moisten your mask using a little water, but make sure you still have enough water to drink.
Also, if you have petroleum jelly with you, apply a bit to the inside of your nostrils. This will stop your mucous membranes from going dry.
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5. Wait for the storm to pass:
Once you feel safe in the place you are in and have covered your nose, mouth and skin, stay there. Let the storm pass and do not try to outrun it. The most secure position will be as close to the ground as possible, in an enclosure and with windows and doors shut firmly.
If you see someone running or crouching in the open, try to get them to your safe house. If you are in a car, flash the headlights or honk to get their attention. Make sure they follow all the safety norms that you have. But never forget the first rule of First Aid—always ensure your own safety before you help someone else.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)