At least 17 people, including seven members of the same family, were killed after lightning struck a wedding party in Bangladesh on Wednesday, and others were injured, including the groom, police and officials said.
The incident occurred at around midday at the Tellikhari Ferry Ghat on the bank of Padma River in the western district of Chapainawabganj, Shibganj Police Station chief Farid Hossain said.
Shibganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Shakib-Al-Rabbi told the Dhaka Tribune that the group had just left in a boat carrying them to Panka in Shibganj from Narayanpur in Chapainawabganj.
But the boat was forced to dock at the Tellikhari Ferry Ghat in Chapainawabganj due to heavy rain and the group took shelter under a thatched shed there.
“Suddenly, a thunderbolt hit them, killing 15 on the spot while two others died on the way to the hospital,” the UNO said, adding that 12 of the deceased are male and five are female.
The bride was not with the wedding party, Al-Rabbi told Agence France-Presse.
Fire Service official Meherul Islam told BS24 News that another 14 people injured in the incident had been taken to the hospital.
Newsweek has contacted Al-Rabbi and Shibganj Police for comment on the incident.
Lightning strikes in Bangladesh are particularly deadly and frequent, killing over 200 people a year on average. According to an official tally, 82 people died in a single day in May 2016.
According to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, 2,164 people died in lightning strikes in the country from 2011 to 2020n the Dhaka Tribune reported. However, the numbers are thought to be higher as many deaths aren’t officially recorded.
Some environmental scientists believe that deforestation and climate change are to blame for the increasing number of people dying in lightning strikes in the South Asian country.
Lightning protection measures since 2016 have been part of Bangladesh’s national disaster plan and its National Building code, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urging buildings to be constructed with earthing systems to discharge electricity from lightning strikes to the ground. In some areas of the country, local authorities have been sowing palm seeds to grow into trees to divert lightning bolts away from people.
According to the Bangladeshi National Plan for Disaster Management, the Surma Basin, the northwest Barind tract, and the northern Tertiary hilly region of Bangladesh were susceptible to lightning disasters between 2015–2018.
A 2018 scientific paper found the people who are most likely killed in lightning strikes in Bangladesh are male farmers, likely in rural areas. 93 percent of lightning deaths occurred in rural areas of the country, the paper found.