83 people killed by lightning in India

Lightning has killed 83 people, mostly farm workers, during thunderstorms across Bihar state in eastern India, a government official said.

Many were struck as they were planting seeds in 23 of the state’s 38 districts, a government statement said.

Thirteen deaths were reported in Gopalganj district, 177km (110 miles) north of Patna, the state capital, said official Upendra Pal.

The rest were scattered in other parts of the state.

Mr Pal said at least 10 others were injured and were receiving hospital treatment.

“Some were walking; some were working in fields,” said Manoj Kumar Tiwary, a top police official in the state of Bihar said, adding that the dead included “children playing in the courtyards of their houses.”

Each year, lightning kills thousands of people in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, which classifies lightning strikes as a cause of accidental death, 2,357 people across India died in 2018 from lighting strikes that year, the last year for which such data was available. But the high numbers of deaths in such a short time span are much rarer. During a two-day period in 2016, lightning strikes killed at least 70 people in the country. That time, many of the fatalities were also around Bihar. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, expressed condolences in a Twitter message, saying the state government is “engaged in relief work with promptness.”

“In some districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, heavy rains and lightning caused the death of many people,” Mr Modi wrote in Hindi, “I express my condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in this disaster.” The India Meteorological Department said Thursday that thunderstorms are likely to hit flood-prone areas of Bihar and along its long and porous border with Nepal. Pushpesh Singh, an official in Uchhati village in eastern Bihar, said in a telephone interview that he saw villagers running for their lives after a tree was hit by a lightning bolt. One woman in a nearby field, he said, died while she was planting in her field. “Some people are still refusing to go back to their homes,” Mr Singh said. “They are too frightened.”–Reuters and NYT

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