A satellite image of the storms over India captured on Thursday.

India lightning strikes lead to 83 deaths in Bihar state

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 were recorded Thursday. A standard compensation of $ 5,300 has been initiated for all families who have 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 state governments were involved 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, “greatly disturbed” by the deaths and extended condolences to the deceased’s families.

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 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 annual rainfall. Much of India’s farmland is not connected to irrigation.

India’s monsoon rains begin in its southern portions, usually around the beginning of June. They advance northward throughout the month, usually covering the whole country by early July.

This meeting onset came slightly ahead of schedule but wasn’t particularly 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 reports from New Delhi and Taylor Ward reports from Atlanta. Emma Reynolds wrote from London.