NYARUGURU, Rwanda — A bolt of lightning that struck a church in Africa left 15 people dead and 140 injured, authorities said.
The traumatic weather event at the Gihembe Seventh-day Adventist Church in southern Rwanda struck during a crowded mass on Saturday where hundreds had gathered to listen to a visiting choir.
“Suddenly, there was a big bang, I saw a thunderbolt strike worshippers. We all fell down for minutes,” church elder Emmanuel Ruremesha told Rwanda’s the New Times.
People who rushed to help were struck by the unnerving sight of hundreds of people lying motionless on the ground.
“It was very terrifying to see. I started moving back with my legs shaking. I realized I had to go home for my phone to call local authorities,” said Marceline Mukamana.
Church officials were devastated by news of the event.
“On behalf of the world family of Seventh-day Adventists circling the globe, we have offered our deep sympathy and Christian love to all our members in the Rwanda Union … especially to the families who have lost loved ones and to those who were injured from this traumatic event,” said Pastor Ted. Wilson, president of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Serious lightning strikes are not uncommon in that area of Rwanda, which is located in a mountainous region on the border of Burundi. An framer was also killed by lightning at a different location during the same rainstorm, officials said.
Rwandan authorities have urged residents in the region to install lightning rods on all buildings.