Blitz of lightning strikes kills 76 across 3 states

The human toll in the blitz of lightning strikes that bore down on parts of northern and central India over the weekend shot up to 76 on Monday, with MP reporting 12 casualties in 24 hours to add to UP's updated count of 41 and Rajasthan's 23.

While farm hands working in the fields accounted for most of the deaths in MP, the list of victims in Rajasthan included at least two people — a brother-sister duo from Amritsar — who were out sightseeing when they were fatally struck by bolts of lightning.

In UP, the state government announced Rs 4 lakh as ex gratia to the families of each of the deceased. CM Yogi Adityanath directed officials to ensure speedy disbursal of the promised compensation. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot released Rs 1.65 cr for distribution of relief to the kin of those killed and for treatment of the injured.

According to official data, 11 of the 12 deaths in Jaipur were at the popular Amber fort. A 12-year-old boy died at Chanda Ki Dhani, a hamlet on the outskirts of Jaipur. "Kota reported 4 deaths, Dholpur 3 and Jhalawar, Baran, Sawai Madhopur and Tonk districts one each. Eight people in Kota and six in Sawai Madhopur were injured," Kalpana Agarwal, joint secretary of disaster management and relief, said.

Izhar Ali (23), one of the injured survivors in Jaipur, recalled taking out his cellphone exactly at 7.04pm to click a selfie atop the heritage watchtower in Amber when a flash of light, accompanied by an explosion, left him pulverised. "For a fleeting moment, I thought my phone had overheated and exploded. I was knocked down. The next thing I heard were cries for help," he said. Izhar said he managed to get up and looked for survivors. "I tried to help everyone I could. We screamed for help, but no one could hear us from over the mountains," he said from his bed at SMS Hospital.

Besides sending teams to comb the area, the police used a drone camera to search for anyone who might be trapped in the gorges nearby.

MP's worst-affected area in the lightning strikes on Sunday was Shivpuri district, where four people died. Among the 10 people killed in the Gwalior-Chambal region in the past 36 hours, there were two father-son pairs, officials said. Chhatarpur reported three casualties on Sunday.

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