Nine people including three farmers died of lightning in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, officials said.
The three farmers died of lightning in Telangana's Mancherial district early in the day while six deaths were reported from Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra.
The farmers were killed in their field in Arepalli village. According to police, the farmers had gone to their fields to protect the paddy from rains. The deceased have been identified as R. Rajaiah, K. Bapu and J. Ramesh.
The farmers were trying to place covers on the paddy kept in the field after cutting but did not succeed due to strong winds and rains. In the meantime, they were struck by lightning.
When they did not return home, their family members went to the field and found their bodies.
Meanwhile, six persons died of lightning in separate incidents in Andhra Pradesh's Srikakulam district. Heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds have been lashing Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts since early Sunday.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been experiencing thunderstorm and unseasonal rains for more than a week.
The Met office has forecast thunderstorm accompanied with gusty winds at isolated places in various districts of Telangana and coastal Andhra on Sunday and Monday.
Some parts of the two states are likely to record maximum temperature between 42 and 44 degrees Celsius.
Earlier this month, district officials in Guntur, Prakasam, Krishna and Nellore were kept on their toes after the Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (APSDMA) alerted them over ‘heavy thunderstorm activity’ expected in the four districts.
The APDSMA recorded such an overwhelming number of lightning strikes within a short span with the authorities terming it ‘unusual’. Fearing that the numbers could spread panic, the authorities refused to share the data related to the strikes.
However, scientists from the Indian Meteorological Department have said that thunderstorms of such severity during summers is quite common.
Lightning strikes and who is more vulnerable
When lightning strikes the ground or an object on the ground, the discharge occurs in and along the ground surface (not deep into the ground). This creates a dangerous and potentially deadly ground current near the lightning strike.
A lightning strike depends on many factors. Some places are more vulnerable to strikes than others due to the speed of the storm. Lightning need not always strike the highest given point in any area.
According to experts, anyone standing on a high ground, in an open space, near water or near large metallic structures or trees are more vulnerable to lightning strikes.
In 2006 (BBC News and British Medical Journal ), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a statement, saying lightning is not attracted to people carrying mobile phones.
“Cell phones, small metal items, jewellery, etc., do not attract lightning. Nothing attracts lightning. Lightning tends to strike taller objects,” said John Jensenius, a NOAA National Weather Service lightning expert. “People are struck because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place is anywhere outside. The wrong time is anytime a thunderstorm is nearby.”