By YVONNE HAIP
FOUR people were struck dead by lightning on Saturday in the upper Mendi area of the Southern Highlands.
Twenty others received serious burns in the electric storm at about 3pm at Egari village, 18km outside Mendi, provincial disaster and emergency relief coordinator Martin Pat said yesterday.
He said the dead included a male teenager and three women, two in their early 20s.
Locals at the Egari market, recently built by Mendi MP Pr Isaac Joseph, took shelter as the storm hit and could do little to save the casualties.
Mendi General Hospital chief executive officer Joseph Turian confirmed that four people were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
He also said that at least 20 people were treated at the hospital, kept overnight and discharged yesterday.
Three with more serious wounds were retained, Turian said, adding that others who received minor injuries were treated at the Mongol Health Centre on Saturday.
He said the hospital was quick to respond as soon as word of the disaster reached the accident and emergency section in the afternoon.
Pat said a provincial disaster and emergency relief team visited Egari village yesterday to assess the damage, saying that about 400 people were at the market when the electric storm struck.
They were astounded by its intensity, he said, adding that lightning struck two trees and the three women who were sitting nearby on one of the market benches.
Pat did not say how the teenager was killed, however, his team had assured relatives of the deceased that they would work with relevant authorities to make sure that some form of relief assistance was provided.
He also commended Mendi hospital staff for ensuring that the patients received care and treatment.
He identified the deceased as Job Peand, 13; Janet Simon, 25; Rita Samal, 24; and an elderly woman Ogon Nonpi.
The wounded were recovering from shock, he added.
People in the area said a child was struck dead by lightning last year in a similar electric storm.