Children cover themselves during a dust storm in New Delhi, India. Picture: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

New Delhi - At least 71 people died as severe storms lashed four Indian states overnight with agencies placed on alert amid warnings of more bad weather, officials said Monday.

High-speed winds accompanied by rain and lightning since Sunday night left a trail of destruction, bringing down homes and leaving dozens injured.

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh reported the highest death toll at 42, according to officials at the state disaster control room.

The toll could increase as 83 people were injured with many admitted to hospitals. More than 120 homes were damaged.

Fourteen people had died in the eastern state of West Bengal and another 12 died in the southern province of Andhra Pradesh.

Two more people died in capital New Delhi while another death was confirmed from the hill state of Uttarakhand.

Most of the deaths were reportedly due to collapsing houses and lightning strikes.

Flight operations at Delhi's international airport were put on hold and more than 70 flights had been diverted on Sunday.

"Saddened by the loss of lives due to storms. Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

All the states were on high alert as the weather bureau has warned of more thunderstorms until Tuesday.

Summer dust storms accompanied by strong winds are common in India ahead of the rainy monsoon season.

Earlier this month, northern India was hit by a powerful squall and thunderstorms that killed more than 120 people and left scores injured.