UPDATE | Death toll from lightning strikes in India rises to 76

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More than 50 people were killed in lightning strikes.
More than 50 people were killed in lightning strikes.
File, iStock

Several people reportedly taking selfies near a historical fort in northern India were among nearly 80 killed by lightning strikes during the early stages of the annual monsoon season, officials said Monday.

Deadly lightning strikes are common in the vast Asian nation during the June-September deluge, which bring respite from the summer heat across the northern Indian plains.

Of the 76 killed, at least 23 people died in the mostly desert state of Rajasthan, including a dozen who were watching the storm cross Jaipur city from watch towers near the famous 12th-century Amer Fort late Sunday, a state disaster department official told AFP.

In Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, bolts hit two watchtowers at the 12th-century Amer Fort, which were packed with visitors watching the storm cross the city.

"It was already raining when the people were there. They huddled in the towers as the rainfall intensified," Saurabh Tiwari, a senior Jaipur police officer, told AFP.

People had flocked to the fort, which gives a panoramic view across Jaipur, after several weeks of intense heat in the state.

Eleven people were killed and another 17 were injured, with three in critical condition, according to police.

Tiwari said up to 30 people were on the towers when the lightning struck.

"Some of the injured were left unconscious by the strikes. Others ran out in panic and extreme pain," Tiwari added.

Emergency teams were checking on Monday whether any victims had fallen into a deep moat on one side of the watchtowers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said special payments would be made to the families of people who lost their lives, as he offered condolences.

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