Hemant Gera, who oversees disaster management in Rajasthan, said the storm was the worst to hit the state in nearly three decades. Many people died in their sleep after their homes were destroyed, he said.
“The storm struck when people were all at home,” he said. “Mud walls collapsed, burying them under it. In many places, trees were uprooted and people were hit by the trunks and branches, resulting in injuries.”
Mr. Gera said that the families of those killed would each be given about $6,000 in compensation.
Mahesh Palawat, a meteorologist at Skymet Weather Services, a private forecaster, called the storm a “freak incident,” telling The Hindustan Times that dust storms were not usually as large or intense as the one that hit the country on Wednesday. Other meteorologists said abnormally high temperatures in parts of northern India had contributed to the storm’s formation.
The Indian National Disaster Management Authority provided updates on Twitter, writing that the worst-hit district was Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, where at least 36 people were killed. Over 150 animals also died during the storm, the government agency said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences, writing on Twitter that he was “saddened by the loss of lives.” He directed officials to assist those who had been affected by the storm.