Authorities probe deaths of 18 elephants as leading conservationist raises doubts the animals were killed by lightning.
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.
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.