Twenty dead in a storm in the western part of India

India floods / Photo EPA-EFE/FASIL KAREEM

At least 24 people have been killed by lightning and heavy rain and hail in India, authorities said. The weather damaged houses and killed livestock across the western state of Gujarat.

Storms are unusual in Gujarat during winter, meteorologists said, and the torrential rain caught many off guard, reports BBC.

Floods and lightning strikes kill thousands of people in India every year. Scientists warn that rising global temperatures are fueling an increase in extreme weather events.

Rising land and sea surface temperatures warm the air above and provide more energy to drive thunderstorms from where lightning occurs.

Rain and hail were expected to continue in western India on Monday. At least 18 of the 24 deaths were attributed to lightning strikes, officials said in a statement late Sunday.

Gujarat state was hit by heavy rains accompanied by thunderstorms and hail on Sunday and Monday, with some areas receiving up to 144 mm (5,7 inches) of rain in 24 hours, Reuters news agency reported, citing state government data.

The collision of three weather systems over Gujarat caused lightning strikes, according to Manorama Mohanty, head of India's metrological department in Ahmedabad.

"These are the easterly winds flowing from the Arabian Sea, the western disturbance over the western Himalayas and the cyclonic circulation over South Gujarat," Mohanty told BBC Gujarati.

India's Home Minister Amit Shah said he was "deeply saddened" by the deaths, adding that local authorities were engaging in humanitarian work.

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