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Story highlights

More than a hundred Bangladeshis are killed by lightning every year, but numbers higher than usual

Deforestation contributes to the problem, with farmers becoming targets on bare landscapes

(CNN) —  

Sixty-five people have been killed by lightning strikes in Bangladesh in four days, as the country endures its annual severe storm season.

Most of the deaths occurred in rural parts of north and central Bangladesh, with the victims predominantly farmers and construction workers, Reaz Ahmed, director general of Bangladesh’s Department of Disaster Management, told CNN on Monday.

The deadliest recent day was Thursday, when 34 people were killed, he said. Twenty-one died the following day, seven on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Lightning strikes are relatively common in the low-lying, densely-populated nation, with the country experiencing severe storms with frequent lightning often between March and June, ahead of the onset of the monsoon.

Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers take shelter during a heavy downpour in the capital, Dhaka.
PHOTO: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers take shelter during a heavy downpour in the capital, Dhaka.

The storms were caused by strong cold fronts moving out of the Himalayas and southeastward, encountering warm, moist air from the Bay of Bengal.

Deforestation has exacerbated the problem, with the lack of trees making farmers working in fields a target for lightning strikes.

Ahmed said that while lightning was common at this time of year, the number of fatalities was higher than usual. Last year, 274 people were killed by lightning.

“We are discussing with our meteorological experts on why the deaths are higher this year,” he said, adding that the government had been running a public education campaign on how people could protect themselves from lightning.

Tropical storm kills 23 in Bangladesh

The government is providing 20,000 Bangladeshi takas ($253) to victims’ families, and 10,000 Bangladeshi takas (roughly $126) to the wounded, he said.

So far this year, five people have been killed by lightning in the United States, a country with about double the population of Bangladesh, which has 157 million people.

About 90% of victims of lightning strikes survive, although many endure debilitating injuries. The odds of a person being struck by lightning during his or her lifetime is about one in 12,000.

CNN’s Sean Morris contributed to this report.