An electrical storm swiftly took the lives of 18 people who tried to take a photo of themselves on July 11.

Tourists thought taking a selfie at India’s 12th Century Amer Fort medieval complex, with lightning in the background, would make the perfect holiday snap. However, they quickly realized their mistake when a bolt struck the watchtower and killed about two-thirds of them, near the northwestern city of Jaipur.

BL has learnt most of the fatalities were young people. Nine people survived after many of them reportedly jumping to the ground for cover.

“It was already raining when the people were there [and] they huddled in the towers as the rainfall intensified,” Jaipur City Police senior officer Saurabh Tiwari said according to The Guardian. “Some of the injured were left unconscious by the strikes. Others ran out in panic and extreme pain.”

Authorities discovered several discarded pairs of shoes and slippers at the scene, many of which the victims had allegedly removed before dying.

“Many people died in front of our eyes. If people had gotten help and authorities had reached on time then [they would have been alive],” an eyewitness said according to the New York Post. “We brought many people down [and] we rescued the people who were still alive, those who were still breathing, and pulled some people out of the gorge.”

Chief ministers from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan plan to compensate families who have lost loved ones with federal assistance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The storm system tore through northern India and has already claimed dozens more lives. In the state of Rajasthan, where Jaipur is located, nine people died. A further 41 perished in Uttar Pradesh, with seven more in Madhya Pradesh.

Lightning strikes kill at least 2,000 people each year. The deaths mainly occurred in rural and agricultural areas where people labor and spend most of their time outside.

The Indian Meteorological Department confirmed lightning-related deaths in India have risen since the 1960s, partly due to the so-called climate crisis according to BBC News.

Lightning can strike in three different ways: directly, sideways, and through the ground.

What to do

When lightning hits, here are some safety recommendations:

  • avoid vast, open regions and exposed hilltops by seeking protection inside a large building or a motor vehicle
  • kneel down with your feet together, hands on knees, and your head tucked in to make yourself as tiny a target as possible if there is nowhere to hide
  • do not seek cover behind tall or isolated trees even though a quarter of people struck by lightning will seek protection under a tree
  • when at sea return to land and away from the beaches as soon as possible since water can transfer hits from afar.

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