‘There were no warnings’: Calls for India’s lightning-strike deaths to be declared a natural disaster

With growing evidence that lightning storms have become more frequent across the world, experts in India tell Namita Singh the reason behind the country’s high number of fatalities – and what the government can do to reduce it

Saturday 18 September 2021 15:23
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<p>Lightning strikes over residential apartments during a thunderstorm on the outskirts of New Delhi</p>

Lightning strikes over residential apartments during a thunderstorm on the outskirts of New Delhi

It was drizzling when Haris Uddin, 44, stepped out to fish on the lake near his home in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. With a family back home entirely dependent on his ability to catch and sell fish, he had gone out to work on days when it was rainier than it was on 9 September, says his brother-in-law Muslim Uddin Sikdar, 55.

“Haris was alone on his boat when the lightning struck him,” Sikdar tells The Independent. “As it hit him, the boat turned and he fell into the lake.” A relative who saw this happen raised the alarm. “We quickly went into the lake to look for him. At first we thought he was alive, so we immediately took him to the hospital. But there, the doctor declared him dead on arrival.”

His body was burnt all down his left-hand side. Uddin, the sole breadwinner in the family, is survived by four daughters, a son, his wife, and his 80-year-old mother.

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