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Eleven people killed by lightning in freak accident

Fifteen others were injured at the remote mountainous area.

Image: Shutterstock

LIGHTNING STRUCK DEAD 11 people in Colombia and injured 15 others during a meeting of indigenous Wiwa spiritual leaders in a remote mountainous area in the country’s north.

The Wiwa, who were gathered at a community in the isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range in Magdalena department, were killed by “an electrical charge from a lightning bolt,” the national ombudsman’s office said.

“Tribal leaders were meeting at the moment when this natural phenomenon took place,” the office, charged with protecting Colombia’s human rights, said.

The Wiwa were carrying out a “spiritual harmonisation ritual,” the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) said.

Wiwa rituals include song and hours-long reflection to ward off negative energy when the group is faced with problems such as climate change or discontent among community members, the ONIC said.

An army battalion operating in the region transported the injured, who were taken to various health facilities in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, a five-hour drive away.

Most were treated for second- and third-degree burns, according to local police.

“Our solidarity is with the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta indigenous community,” President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted.

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Meteorologists said the lightening storm was the product of strong warming overnight Sunday coupled with a tropical wave of relatively low air pressure.

- © AFP. 2014

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