Dhaka, August 12: At least 13 Muslim worshippers were killed and 15 hurt when lightning struck a mosque in a remote village in northeast Bangladesh as they held special Ramadan prayers, police said yesterday.
The imam was among those instantly killed when a lightning bolt hit the tin-and-thatch building at Saraswatipur village, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital Dhaka, late on Friday.
The lightning appeared to “electrify” the mosque after hitting a rooftop microphone being run on power from a car battery, local council member Abul Kalam told AFP.
About 35 people from the village in the lake district of Sunamganj were holding taraweeh prayers — offered during the holy fasting month of Ramadan — at the time, police chief Bayes Alam said.
“All 13, including the imam, died on the spot. The bodies and faces of some of the victims were burnt,” Alam told AFP, adding six of the injured were hospitalized.
Locals had turned the flimsy structure into a mosque because access to the village's more substantial concrete-roofed mosque had been made difficult due to recent heavy rains that have swollen the Saraswati River.
Villagers rushed to help after hearing cries, Kalam said.
“It was a terrible scene. Dozens were lying on the floor — some dead, others writhing in pain,” he said, adding most of the victims were young men in their 20s and 3Os.
“We took the injured in three boats and headed to hospital in Dharmapasa”, the closest big town, he said. “But it took hours to get there,” he added.
Lightning is a major threat in Sunamganj, home to some of Bangladesh's biggest lakes. Most lightning strikes occur during the monsoon season between June and September when the district receives huge amounts of rainfall.
Across the South Asian country, hundreds of people are killed by lightning strikes every year, with most dying while attempting to save rice crops from flooding.
Bangladeshi environmentalists blame global warming, which has unleashed a growing number of tropical storms, for the increase in the frequency, devastation and deaths caused by lightning strikes in recent years.
In May last year, at least 29 people were killed — most of them farmers who were harvesting rice — and dozens injured when a series of lightning strikes hit several districts in a single day.