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Lightning sows farm deaths

May 31: Fourteen people, including four children, farmers working in fields and a homemaker collecting firewood, were killed after being struck by lightning during the thunderstorm and rain that swept several south Bengal districts this morning.

Five of the deaths occurred in Murshidabad, where people fell victim to lightning while working in the fields or plucking mangoes and vegetables in Hariharpara, Raghunathganj and Kabargara.

Dark clouds shrouded several south Bengal districts from around 6am and the storm, accompanied by lashing rain, arrived within half an hour.

Abdul Alim, a 35-year-old farmer, was struck by lightning when he was about to leave his field in Hariharpara after collecting potol with his three brothers.

Abdul’s younger brother Selim said: “He told us to go home with three bags of potol and said he would return after some time. Minutes after we had reached home, a thunderstorm started. When the rain stopped around 7.45am, we went back to the field to look for him. We found him lying prone. He did not respond and we took him to hospital.”

A doctor at Murshidabad Medical College Hospital said the injuries on Abdul’s body “indicated that he had been struck by lightning”.

Farm labourers Sanjay Sheikh, 31, and Mujibur Sheikh, 37, died after being hit while plucking mangoes in an orchard in Kabargara.

“The sky became dark and heavy rain started. Suddenly, there was a flash of lightning followed by a deafening crash. I started running. I looked back and saw Sanjay and Mujibur lying on the ground,” said Bahadur Sheikh, 24.

Two farmers died in similar fashion while working in a field in Raghunathganj.

In Burdwan’s Raniganj, homemaker Laxmi Murmu, 30, was hit by lightning while she was collecting firewood with two neighbours in a forest around 7am, police said.

“She suffered burns and lost consciousness, ” said Gita Bauri, a neighbour. Laxmi was declared dead on arrival in hospital.

In Khandaghosh, 90km away, farmer Sisir Kumar Mondal, 64, who was also a Trinamul gram panchayat member, was killed after being struck by lightning while he was overseeing the harvesting of the sesame crop.

“The field is about 500 metres from our house. We had asked dada (Sisir) not to venture out of the house as it was raining. But he did not listen,” said Kanai, Sisir’s younger brother. Sisir, who was also a quack, died at Burdwan Medical College Hospital.

In West Midnapore’s Ghatal, two 12-year-old girls died after being struck by lightning when they were returning home from a ration shop. Daughters of farm labourers, Bharati Mandi and Chhaya Mandi, used to study in Class VII.

Eleven labourers digging a pond in Chandrakona, 15km away, suffered burn injuries.

In Purulia’s Jhalda, Jigor Kuiri, 4, died in a field where he had gone with his farmer parents. Farm labourer Dinesh Gope, 40, was killed on his way home in Bagmundi. Farmer Bhakti Mondal, 52, died after being hit by lightning in Barra village.

In South 24-Parganas, two children, aged 12 and 15, were claimed by lightning while they were returning home.