Lightning strikes in India have killed an estimated 93 people and injured at least 20 others in the last two days. Officials confirmed a majority of those killed were working on farms in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh during a strong monsoon.
Although the weather was clearly inclement, many victims were compelled to continue working as they rely on farming for their livelihood. Some of the workers attempted to seek shelter as the storms intensified. Unfortunately, for many, it was simply too late.
In an interview with BBC News, a Rohtas man, who was not identified by name, discussed his personal experience with the lightning strikes in India.
“When it was raining, we immediately took shelter. It [lightning] hit us there, and then we fell unconscious… We could not understand what had happened. Then in the middle, when I regained consciousness, I realised that I had been hit by something.”
Authorities confirmed the lightning strikes in India killed at least 93 people and injured nearly two dozen others.
A majority of those injured and killed were in Bihar, where officials recorded a total of 56 lightning-related deaths in the last two days. Thirty-seven others were reported killed in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh.
Unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise, as the storms struck several remote villages with limited communication with the rest of the state.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 22, 2016
Each year, lightning strikes in India are responsible for an estimated 2,000 accidental deaths. A majority of those deaths were reported between June and September during the country’s monsoon season.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggests several measures to prevent injury due to a lightning strike while working outside.
— Thomson Reuters Fdn (@TR_Foundation) June 22, 2016
Although moving inside during a storm is the safest option, it is not always possible. Workers who are stuck outside during a dangerous storm are urged to seek shelter among “dense areas of smaller trees that are surrounded by larger trees.” Shelter can also be sought in lower lying areas like ditches and valleys.
Workers who are caught outside during storms are also reminded to avoid bodies of water, tall poles, electrical wiring, and fences.
Unfortunately, farm workers in India feel compelled to continue working during lightning storms despite the known risk. In an interview with the Guardian, Kanti Butiya village farmer Lal Babu Usvaha explains.
“Work is work. We can’t stop because of the weather. We have to keep working in the fields. But we feel scared when we see so many clouds, so much electricity in the sky.”
Usvaha and many others blame the government for the fatal lightning strikes in India. Another farmer, Saffan Kumar, said farmers and their employees are forced to continue working in dangerous conditions to support their families. In his opinion, the government needs to do more to help the countries struggling farms.
“We can’t stay at home and we can’t go out. We’re stuck. We are willing to do anything, if the government can help us. We’re prepared to do what they say.”
Although India’s government has received stark criticism for their failure to reduce the number of fatal lightning strikes, officials have pledged to provide the families of the lightning strike victims with 400,000 rupees, or $5,900, each. They have also pledged to provide assistance to those who were injured but not killed. The amount of assistance will vary depending on the degree of the victim’s injuries.
Fatal lightning strikes in India are a grim reality for many families. Despite the fact that the government is trying to provide the victims with financial relief, any farmers, and their workers would like the government to focus on preventative measures.
[Image via Denis Rozhnovsky/Shutterstock]