At least 33 dead in Indian storm

Crops and properties were also severely damaged in the overnight storm that lashed several districts.

An Indian rickshaw puller transports passengers as storm clouds cover the sky over Agartala, capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, on 5 April, 2015. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - At least 33 people have been killed in a powerful storm that swept through the country's eastern Bihar state.

Crops and properties were also severely damaged in the overnight storm that lashed several districts across the impoverished state, uprooting trees and toppling power lines.

It's feared the death toll could rise, with rescue workers still trying to reach some of the affected areas.

Meanwhile, India's monsoon rains could be below average in 2015 due to an impact of El Nino weather pattern, which can bring on a dry spell in the region, the weather office said on Wednesday.

Rains are expected to be 93 percent of a long-term average, Earth Science Minister Harsh Vardhan said, after releasing the forecast of the India Meteorological Department.

India's weather office defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96 percent and 104 percent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire four-month season.

The latest forecast raises concerns for output prospects for major summer crops such as rice, cane, soybean and cotton in the country that is a key global producer of these farm commodities.

Indian monsoon rains were hit by El Nino weather pattern in 2009, when the four-month long monsoon season turned the driest in nearly four decades.