LUCKNOW, India — Seven people, mostly farmers, were killed by lightning in a village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, police said on Thursday, bringing the death toll from the lightning to 49 people in the state this week.
Farmers had taken shelter under trees during heavy monsoon rain when they were struck by lightning on Tuesday and died instantly. The victims included four members of a family and cattle herders near the town of Kaushambi, according to police officer Hem Raj Meena.
The high death toll has prompted the government to issue new guidelines on how people can protect themselves during a thunderstorm, state government spokesman Shishir Singh said.
“More people die from lightning than from rain-related incidents, although this is when people (usually) die from floods or other rain-related incidents,” Singh said.
The monsoon season in India runs from June to September.
Colonel Sanjay Srivastava, whose Lightning India Resilient Campaign works with the Indian Meteorological Department, said lightning had killed nearly 750 people across India since April. This includes 20 people who died in eastern Bihar state in the past two days and 16 in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state earlier this month.
Sunita Narain, director general of the Center for Science and the Environment, said global warming is playing a role in the increasing number of lightning strikes. A rise in temperature of one degree Celsius multiplies by 12 the lightning.
Srivastava said deforestation, depletion of water bodies and pollution all contribute to climate change, leading to more lightning strikes.
JP Gupta, director of the meteorological department, said thunderstorms and lightning have increased this year due to an increase in pollution levels.
“The high temperature of the ground leads to the evaporation of water masses which adds humidity to the atmosphere. The presence of aerosols due to air pollution creates favorable conditions for storm clouds to trigger lightning activity,” Gupta said.
More than 200 people have been killed in torrential rains and mudslides in Indian states such as Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Sikkim, while 42 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during the monsoon season.