At least 76 people have been killed by lightning in the last two days as violent storms and heavy rains lashed Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, disaster management officials said Wednesday.
Bihar reported most of the deaths after an overnight storm, which coincided with the arrival of the monsoon in the eastern state on Tuesday, left at least 56 people dead. Bihar disaster management minister Chandrashekhar warned that the toll could be higher, news agency ANI said.
Though lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon the death toll is particularly high for two days.
“We have confirmation of 47 deaths and fear the toll may go up as reports are pouring in from other districts,” Anirudh Kumar, a senior official at Bihar’s disaster management agency, told AFP.
Five deaths were reported from Rohtas and Patna, followed by four each in Aurangabad, Nalanda and Buxar districts. Three deaths were reported from Saharsa, two from Bhojpur and East Champaran and one each from Banka, Muzaffarpur, Madhepura and Samastipur.
Unconfirmed reports, however, said five deaths were also reported from Kaimur, three each from Katihar and Saran, two each from Purnea and Munger and one each from Gaya, Kishanganj and West Champaran.
In Naubatpur block, on the outskirts of the state capital Patna, a lightning strike left open a 100-foot (30.5 metre) crack on the ground. “The crack due to lightning is 100 feet and 8 feet deep,” district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal confirmed.
In Patna and Rohtas alone, 16 people were injured by lightning. More than 12 people were also hurt in the Kosi region of Saharsa.
The state government, which announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the victims’ families, has issued an advisory to people to stay away from fields during thundershowers.
Authorities in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh said 20 people were killed as heavy rains accompanied by lightning hit many parts of the state over two days.
Lightning kills thousands every year, most of them farmers working the fields. More than 2,500 people were killed by lightning in India in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, the most recent figures available.
(With agency inputs)