BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- Lightning has killed 499 people in China so far this year, nearly 200 more than in the same period last year, and the country's top meteorologist blamed recent extreme weather on global warming.
Villagers attempt to save their rice crops after last month's flooding in Bishan County, Chongqing, on August 9.
All of the victims were villagers, and 79 percent were working in the fields when they were struck, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday. About two-thirds died between late June and mid-August.
Large swathes of China have been hit this summer by severe storms and flooding, which have killed hundreds. Other parts have suffered prolonged drought.
The landlocked province of Jiangxi near the east coast recorded the most number of lightning deaths at 116, Xinhua said.
Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, said global warming increased the likelihood of extreme weather.
He attributed the rise in the death toll to a lack of awareness among rural residents on avoiding open space in storms.
Last year lightning strikes killed 717 people, injured 640 and caused 19,982 accidents across the country. E-mail to a friend
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