At least 27 people were struck dead by lightning strikes and four passengers on a flight hospitalised after monsoon storms battered West Bengal, officials are saying.
West Bengal was hit by thunderstorms late on Monday, with lightning strikes in parts of the state, a fairly common occurrence during the June to September annual monsoon.
“Many of the 27 killed on Monday evening in the state were farmers working in the fields, though some were people who simply happened to be outdoors,” West Bengal disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan said on Tuesday.
A flight from the western city of Mumbai to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, was caught in the storm as it was coming in to land, officials said. Eight passengers were injured, and four taken to hospital.
“One passenger is still admitted in the hospital. The others have been discharged,” the airport’s director C Pattabhi said. “It was a close shave for the passengers.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced financial compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$2,746) for the next of kin of those who died and 50,000 rupees (US$686) for each injured person.
Summer storms accompanied by strong winds are common in India ahead of the rainy monsoon season.
The monsoon is crucial to replenishing water supplies in South Asia but also causes widespread death and destruction across the region.
More extreme weather is on the way.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is forecasting that a Low Pressure Area is likely to form over North Bay of Bengal around June 11, and under its Influence, the Southwest Monsoon is likely to advance over West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar.
IMD said that widespread rainfall activity is very likely over most parts of East India and adjoining Central India from June 10 and Gangetic West Bengal on June 10 and 11.
Nearly 2,900 people were killed by lightning in India in 2019 according to the National Crime Records Bureau – the most recent figures available.