Early monsoon death toll hits 75 in India

The official death toll from lightning strikes and powerful storms rose to 76 on Friday as annual summer monsoon rains tore through India ahead of schedule, authorities said.

Seventeen more deaths were reported from late on Thursday night in three Indian states on top of 58 people who died earlier.

Lightning killed three people while three others died overnight after gusting winds wrecked homes at Allahabad, in northern Uttar Pradesh, police spokesperson Manish Awasthi told Agence France-Presse in the state capital Lucknow.

A total of 32 dead have been reported from Uttar Pradesh alone since May 18, when the monsoon hit India’s Andaman archipelago and then swirled up the west coast states of Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Maharashtra government spokesperson Bhushan Gagrani announced 19 rain-related deaths during the week in the western state.

“All the deaths were caused due to lightning strikes or collapsing walls,” Gagrani said.

In Gujarat’s Narmada, Dahod and Sabarkanta districts, six people were killed and four sustained burns in lightning strikes while two teenagers died in Ahmedabad as the first monsoon rains lashed the state on Thursday, police said.

And at least four others died in rain-related accidents in Gujarat.

The state alerted disaster-management units to possible floods as the local meteorological department warned of heavy rains in coming days.

Nine of the 58 reported dead were from West Bengal this week.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported three deaths in the southern state of Kerala, where the monsoon arrived a week earlier than usual, but has already left a trail of destruction.

The Kerala coastguard was searching for the second straight day on Friday for two missing boats with 22 fishermen aboard.

In Mumbai, the early monsoon caused travel chaos this week and brought back memories of last year’s devastating floods that left 400 dead.

Municipal workers were on Friday clearing clogged drains and gutters.

India’s far eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, meanwhile, on Friday sounded a flood alert after 478mm of rains in two districts, PTI reported. — AFP

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