Monday, 30th October 2017

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Bolt strikes Victoria Memorial, kills visitor

Subir Paul had gone to Victoria Memorial to celebrate his wife’s birthday on Friday afternoon

By Jhinuk Mazumdar in Calcutta
  • Published 17.08.19, 2:57 AM
  • Updated 17.08.19, 2:57 AM
  • 3 mins read
Subir Paul with wife Lucy Sangita Gomes Collected from Lucy’s Facebook page

A Dum Dum resident died of suspected electrocution after lightning struck the south gate of Victoria Memorial where he had gone to celebrate his wife’s birthday on Friday afternoon. The couple’s daughter was with them when the accident took place.

Several people, who were at the south gate on Friday, were standing under a tin shed and in a puddle to escape blinding rain around 3.30pm.

A few others were also rushing towards the shelter when lightning struck the place and most of them fell, an eyewitness said. Some of those who had gathered there were tourists from Bangladesh.

Some of the people, who were just outside the huddle, also fell down to the ground, said a CISF official.

However, it is not clear whether the victim Subir Paul, 34, was standing under the shed or just outside of it when lightning struck him. Paul was accompanied by his wife Lucy Sangita Gomes, 32, and four-year daughter Sanbi.

“Today is my sister’s birthday and they had gone out together to celebrate the day. My sister and her daughter are fine,” said Mukul Rozario, Paul’s brother-in-law, who came to the hospital from his workplace at Jodhpur Park.

In the emergency ward of SSKM, Paul’s body was lying on a stretcher and Lucy Sangita was crying clinging on to him. The child was taken away by a nurse.

SSKM authorities said that Paul was brought dead to the hospital, where he was rushed along with 16 injured people. The exact cause of Paul’s death will be known after the post-mortem.

According to scientists it is plausible that Paul was electrocuted if he was standing in water. When lightning struck water became the conductor of electricity, a scientist said. Paul worked for an NGO and his wife teaches in a Dum Dum missionary school.

Kesab Bhattacharya, who teaches electrical engineering at Jadavpur University, said Paul’s death could be from electrocution and the others could have been injured because of electric shock.

“Lightning strikes tall structures. It could be a tall building or a tree. There is a huge flow of current when there is lightning in the clouds. The lightning while coming towards the ground hits an object situated between 50m and 100m around the structure. In this case the current had hit the water. So the death was possibly from electrocution. It was minor shock that caused people to fall to the ground,” said Bhattacharya.

SSKM authorities said that the injured came to them with “tingling sensation,” and had some of them had “cardiac problems”. They were referred to the cardiology department. Some of the injured had chest injury and some had injuries in the leg, police said.

Another visitor from Bangladesh, who had come with his wife and children, said that both his sons and wife fell down when lightning struck. “I took my sons to another shed a little distance away. But I couldn’t carry my wife who had lost consciousness. She had to be taken to the hospital,” said Kazi Zahiruddin Mithu, an architect from Bangladesh.

Mithu, his wife and children were discharged in the evening but the trauma of the incident was so intense that Irene Akhtar murmured to her husband “there is water here” as soon as they stepped outside the gate.

One of the injured, Moidul Mollah, was admitted at SSKM because he was coughing blood. The rest were discharged after first-aid, a senior SSKM official said. “Moidul is under observation but he is stable,” he said.

Moidul had stopped at Victorial Memorial along with his family on their way home to Ranihati, in Howrah.

“My son-in-law hasn’t been able to speak coherently ever since he fell down,” said his father-in-law Sheikh Mahmud Ali. A CISF personnel on duty at the south gate said he fell to the ground as he took the walkie-talkie to report the incident to his superior.

“I have not seen anything like this before. There was blood in the mouth of a few people…some of them, however, had regained their consciousness,” he said.

At the hospital some of the injured were shivering and had covered themselves with sheets of cloth and some of them were visibly traumatised barely able to speak.

Elsewhere, two other persons are believed to have died because of the lightning, including a woman who died following a cardiac arrest.

Mohammad Anwar, 24, a resident of Mominpur Road, was found unconscious in a waterlogged road in Ekbalpore around 6pm on Friday. He was taken to a hospital in Alipore where he was declared dead. Police suspect he had been electrocuted.