Lightning storm kills 12 in eastern India

Odisha state struck 61,000 times in three hours on Saturday, authorities say

Lightning in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The government has offered compensation of 400,000 rupees ($4,800) to the families of the dead in Odisha state. Getty
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A dozen people were killed and more than 14 injured after India's Odisha state was hit by lightning.

More than 61,000 bolts struck in three hours on Saturday afternoon, the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority said.

On Sunday, 3,200 lightning strikes were recorded with no casualties.

The government has offered compensation of 400,000 rupees ($4,800) to the families of the dead, said the Special Relief Organisation, which deals with disaster management in Odisha.

Help was also available to those whose cattle were killed, the SRC said.

There were more than 36,500 cloud-to-cloud bursts of lightning and 25,753 cloud-to-ground strikes as of 5.30pm on Saturday, the state authority said.

There have been several days of heavy rain and lightning in Odisha.

The India Meteorology Department, the federal weather agency, has forecast the formation of a low pressure area over the northern Bay of Bengal and warned of downpours until Thursday.

“Thunderstorms and lightning are also expected to occur in parts of North Odisha,” said Uma Shankar Das, senior IMD scientist in Bhubaneswar, Odisha state.

“People have been advised to take shelter during lightning and thunderstorms to keep themselves safe. People should stay away from trees and water bodies.”

Lightning strikes are common in the region between April and June during monsoon season, but rare outside the period.

About 2,500 people die annually in India because of thunder and lightning, India's National Disaster Management Authority said.

Between 2020 and 2021, there were 18.5 million lightning strikes in India, said a report by the Lightning Resilient India Campaign, a government-linked organisation that focuses on eliminating lightning deaths with warnings and awareness.

In Odisha, lightning is considered a “state-specific disaster”. In 2021 and 2022, 281 people were killed by lightning in 30 districts, according to media reports.

The state has a deal with US-based weather intelligence data company Earth Networks to provide early warnings.

India has technology to forecast thunder and lightning but there is a lack of public awareness about the phenomenon.

The country has experienced extreme weather in recent years blamed on climate change, including intense heat and cold, thunderstorms and flooding.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 4:18 AM