Lightning strike kills 11 members of remote Wiwa tribe in Colombia

Spiritual leaders of Wiwa tribe were struck in building while performing traditional ceremony 

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Eleven members of a remote indigenous tribe in Colombia have been killed when a lightning bolt struck a thatch-roofed hut where they were gathered.

Military officials said that another 15 members of the Wiwa tribe that live high in the coastal Sierra Nevada range on the Caribbean coast were injured with second or third degree burns, six of them seriously. Sixty spiritual leaders were reported to be in the building at the time.

The electrical storm took place around midnight as the tribe was performing a traditional ceremony accompanied by tribe elders known as “Mamos" and were killed by "an electrical charge from a lightning bolt", the national ombudsman´s office said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the deaths and ordered the military to evacuate by helicopter injured tribe members who otherwise would have to walk downhill six hours to the nearest road. "We show our condolences and solidarity with the indigenous people who were affected by lightning in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, which caused the unfortunate death of 11 of our citizens and another 15 people were injured," he said.

Additional reporting by AP