Lightning strikes kill 27 during monsoon storm in eastern India

At least 27 people dead of lightning strikes and four passengers on a flight hospitalised after monsoon storms in West Bengal.

A pedestrian walks with an umbrella as lightning strikes during an evening thunderstorm
Lightning strikes during the June-September annual monsoon are fairly common in India [File: Rakesh Bakshi/AFP]

Lightning strikes have killed 27 people and sent four passengers on a flight to hospital after severe turbulence during monsoon storms in eastern India, officials said.

Officials said West Bengal was hit by thunderstorms late Monday, with lightning strikes in parts of the state – a fairly common occurrence during the June to September annual monsoon in the country.

“Many of the 27 killed on Monday evening… in the state were farmers and working in the fields,” West Bengal disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Lightning over apartment buildings during a thunderstorm on the outskirts of New Delhi in [File: Prakash Singh/AFP]

The victims were mostly farmers, though some were people who simply happened to be outdoors, authorities said. The storms hit six districts of the state, accompanied by strong winds.

A flight from the western city of Mumbai to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, was caught in the storm as it was about to land, officials said.

Eight passengers were injured, with four taken to hospital.

“One passenger is still admitted in the hospital. The others have been discharged,” the airport’s director C Pattabhi told AFP. “It was a close shave for the passengers.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a financial compensation of 200,000 rupees ($2,746) for the next of kin of those who had died and 50,000 rupees ($686) for each injured person.

Nearly 2,900 people were killed by lightning in India in 2019 according to the National Crime Records Bureau – the most recent figures available.

Summer storms accompanied by strong winds are common in India ahead of the rainy monsoon season. The weather bureau has forecast more storms for India in the coming days.

The monsoon is crucial to replenishing water supplies in South Asia but also causes widespread death and destruction across the region.

Source: News Agencies