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Lightning strike kills 323 wild reindeer in southern Norway

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A single lightning strike has killed more than 300 wild reindeer on a mountain plateau at a national park in southern Norway, local officials say, making it the deadliest lightning strike ever recorded.

It happened on Friday afternoon when thunderstorms hit Hardangervidda National Park, which is located in the country’s south and is a popular destination for tourists, featuring one of the country’s largest glaciers.

The incident was first reported on Friday night when a hunting supervisor found the group of dead reindeer on a mountain plateau, but it took until Sunday before officials could visit the site to assess the situation.

“Our people in the field have found 323 dead reindeer, of which 5 had to be put down due to injuries,” said Elin Fosshaug Olsø, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Environment Agency. All of the dead reindeer were found in a radius of just 50 meters (165 feet).

“We believe all reindeer were killed as a result of one single powerful lightning strike, because of the way they were positioned,” Olsø explained. “We have never experienced such a large number of reindeer killed by lightning at the same time before. This is as far as we know a unique incident.”

Lightning strikes are sometimes capable of killing groups of animals if they are gathered tightly together, but Friday’s incident in Norway involved a remarkably high number of dead animals, believed to be the highest number ever recorded.

In 2005, a single bolt of lightning struck a tree at a dairy farm in Australia, killing 68 Jersey cows, according to Guinness World Records. The deadliest incident involving humans happened in Peru in 1971 when lightning struck LANSA Flight 508, causing the plane to crash and killing 91 people.

Credit: Håvard Kjønholt, Norwegian Environment Agency
Credit: Håvard Kjønholt, Norwegian Environment Agency
Credit: Håvard Kjønholt, Norwegian Environment Agency

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