More than 100 people have been killed during lightning strikes in two Indian states in two days, according to authorities.
In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 24 people died due to lightning in the past 24 hours, according to senior Uttar Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority official Aditi Umrao.
In the neighboring Indian state of Bihar, at least 83 people were killed in lightning strikes on Thursday, according to the state government.
In total, at least 107 people have died from lightning strikes in the two states.
Bihar’s Disaster Management Department said the Gopalganj district saw the highest death toll, with 13 people killed. The rest of the deaths were recorded in 22 separate areas across the state.
All the deaths in Bihar were recorded Thursday. Compensation of $5,300 will be given to the families who have lost loved ones, said Sandeep Kumar, an official at Bihar’s Disaster Management Department.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that there was “tragic news” of deaths in some districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, during heavy rains and lightning. He said the state governments were engaged in urgent relief work. “I express my condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” he added.
Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, said in a tweet that she was, “very disturbed” by the deaths and extended condolences to the families of the deceased.
Economy deeply reliant on monsoon season
India and the South Asian region more widely often have lightning fatalities in May and June each year. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, there were 2,885 deaths attributed to lightning in 2017 and 2,357 in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.
In Uttar Pradesh alone, 239 people in the state died from lighting strikes last year, according to Umrao. Since April 1, 139 people have died due to lighting in the state, “so we are roughly following the same trend,” Umrao added.
In comparison, there were 20 deaths blamed on lightning in the US in 2019, according to the National Weather Service.
The deaths in India often occur among farmers, who head outside to prepare their fields just as the monsoon rains arrive. They want to cut it as close as possible to the start of the rains. For example, if they seed too early it is still hot and the crop will die, but if it’s too close to the onset they are vulnerable in open fields during thunderstorms.
India’s economy is deeply reliant on the monsoon season. Its agriculture depends on the June-to-September Southwest Monsoon Season, which accounts for most of the country’s annual rainfall. Much of India’s farmland is not connected to irrigation.
India’s monsoon rains begin in its southern portions, typically around the beginning of June. They advance northward throughout the month, typically covering the entire country by early July.
This year’s onset came slightly ahead of schedule but was not especially unusual. So far in June, rainfall across the country has been about 20% above normal, with the largest amounts coming in Central India, according to India’s Meteorological Department..
CNN’s Swati Gupta reported from New Delhi and Taylor Ward reported from Atlanta. Emma Reynolds wrote from London.