In India, lightning claimed 74 lives over the past 24 hours, mostly farm laborers working in the fields across northern and eastern India, officials informed the media on Wednesday. Of these, 57 lived in the eastern state of Bihar. Thunderstorms and monsoon rains lashed 14 districts of the state, leaving 24 others injured.
Deaths due to lightning higher than usual
Apart from in Bihar, the lightning also killed people in neighboring Jharkand state, northern Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra with ten, six and one deaths respectively, said the police. Vyas Ji, a disaster management official in Bihar, said the lightning also killed scores of cattle in the state. Among the dead were at least eight shepherds who were watching their sheep, the official said.
Ji, who is receiving reports from the remote districts of the state, told reporters that he expects the death toll to go up. In India, monsoon season lasts for four months, from June and to September. It is common for lightning to strike during the season, but the recent toll is unusually high.
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According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, since 2005, every year around 2,000 deaths take place in India due to lightning strikes. In 2014, lightning strikes killed more than 2,500 people in India, making it the biggest natural cause of accidental death. At distant second is heat stroke, which was responsible for less than half the number of deaths from lightning strikes.
Also there have been reports of elephants dying from lightning strikes in India, the most recent being earlier this month when three pachyderms lost their lives. In 2007, five elephants were killed by lightning strikes.
Farmers waiting for government’s support
“Work is work. We can’t stop because of the weather. We have to keep working in the fields. But we feel scared when we see so many clouds, so much electricity in the sky,” said a farmer near the city of Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
Another farmer said they are in an awkward position as they can neither stay at home nor go out. He said farmers are willing to do anything if the government comes to their aid.
“We’re prepared to do what they say,” he said.
The government has announced compensation of Rs. 400,000 (£4,000) for each of the lightning victims’ families as relief. Soon the government might make other relief funds accessible as well to injured farmers, depending on the severity of their injuries.
“Deeply anguished by loss of lives due to lightning in parts of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand & other parts of the nation over the last few days,” tweeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.