Record 61,000 lightning strikes in two hours kill 12 people

At least 12 people were killed and more than a dozen injured as around 61,000 lightning strikes hit India‘s eastern state of Odisha in just two hours.

Areas around the capital Bhubaneswar received heavy lightning on Saturday which continued during the afternoon thundershowers, according to the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.

According to the agency, at least 36,597 cloud-to-cloud lightning were recorded till 5pm, while cloud-to-ground strikes were recorded at 25,753. Lightning that occurs between two or more separate clouds is known as cloud-to-cloud lightning, whereas the quick discharge of electric charge to the land is called cloud-to-ground lightning.

Eight cattle also perished in the barrage of lightning, it added.

The government of Odisha announced an ex-gratia of Rs 400,000 (£3,827) for each of the bereaved families.

The thunderstorms are likely to continue, said the India Meteorology Department (IMD), issuing a warning of extreme weather conditions in Odisha till Thursday.

The lightning strikes were caused due to a cyclonic circulation active over the Bay of Bengal that is expected to intensity into a low-pressure area in the next 24 hours, leading to heavy downpour in the state. The rainfall will intensify later in the week, the IMD said in its bulletin.

The department issued an orange alert (heavy rainfall) for seven districts on Monday and a yellow alert for other districts.

Odisha on Sunday recorded over 5,300 lightning strikes across the state.

While lightning strikes are pretty common in the eastern part of India during the monsoon season, the high number of strikes in a single day was unprecedented.

Studies have predicted a whopping 50 percent rise in deadly lightning strikes by the end of this century because of the rise in sea surface area. There has been a 43 per cent rise in total lightning incidents globally, according to a study published in the Nature Communications journal in February this year.

A warming climate leads to more extreme weather, like thunderstorms, and according to a study published by the University of California in 2015, for every 1C increase in temperature, the frequency of lightning strikes increases by 12 per cent.

The Indian government has launched a mobile application, Damini, to track information related to thunder.