Severe thunderstorm kills 3 in Jammu and Kashmir, causes major damage and power outage in north India

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Three people were killed by a lightning strike in the Surankote area in a district of the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, July 20, 2020. In a separate incident on Tuesday, July 21, severe thunderstorms resulted in a wall collapse of an 85-year-old structure near Har Ki Pairi in Hardiwar City, north India. Power was also disrupted as a flash of lightning hit a transformer, causing it to catch fire. 

In Surankote, Poonch District, a lightning strike killed three members of the same family Monday night, while a five-year-old child "miraculously" survived but sustained injuries, the police said. The boy was taken to a hospital for treatment, authorities added. 

Poonch deputy commissioner Rahul Yadav announced that district authorities have immediately sanctioned 25 000 rupees or 335 dollars each to the affected families as financial assistance from the Red Cross Society.

Officials also reported that hundreds of animals, including goats and sheep, perished after being hit by lightning. 

In a separate incident in Haridwar City, in north India's Uttarakhand state, thunderstorms caused havoc and destroyed the wall of an 85-year-old structure near Har Ki Pairi at around 22:00 UTC on July 20 (03:30 LT on July 21). No injuries were reported, according to the officials who assessed the area Tuesday morning.

Residents were taken aback by the sight of a huge mound of debris. Meanwhile, seers and ascetics reacted angrily to the incident, which according to them, should have not happened at a time when the state is preparing for the 2021 Kumbh, a major pilgrimage and festival.

As reports came in, local police and volunteers barricaded the area and started clearing operations. Pilgrims have also stopped going towards the Brahmakund as a precautionary measure.

The structure, which was built around 1935, suffered major damage from the overnight rains and lightning strikes. Devotees all around the year visit the place to take a dip in the holy water of Ganges. The area is also known for its iconic sacred chants every evening.

"Har ki Pairi is a national heritage and conserving it is our collective responsibility. The state government should immediately repair and beautify it," said Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad's president Mahant Narendra Giri.

A bolt of lightning also struck near Brahmakund at the city, causing a transformer to catch fire which resulted in a power outage. No one was present near the incident site. 

Severe weather continues to batter much of India. As of July 22, there have been six million affected, 90 000 displaced people, and 470 fatalities.

The India Meteorological Department has issued heavy rainfall warning for most of the states in the north and northeastern regions until July 25.

Featured image credit: @seelu1000/Twitter

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