NEW DELHI: At least 17 people were killed by lightning in India's eastern state of Bihar, the South Asian country's state-run broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) said on Saturday.

The deaths came after heavy rains and thunderstorms lashed the state in the last 24 hours, affecting six districts.

Most of the victims were farmers working in the fields when lightning struck.

According to AIR, five people, including three children, were killed in Gaya district. Twelve others lost their lives in the Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Kaimur and Rohtash districts.

The local weather department predicted heavy rains over northeastern India for the next five days and over Bihar, Jharkhand, and sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim for the next three.

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The deaths saddened Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who announced monetary relief for the victims' families.

The "chief minister has announced an ex-gratia payment of 400,000 rupees ($5,018) to the next of kin of the deceased," a government spokesman said.

Kumar also urged people to remain vigilant in bad weather and follow suggestions issued by the disaster management department.

In June and July, more than 60 people were killed by lightning across Bihar. Hundreds die by lightning across India during the annual monsoon season.