US & Canada

Lightning strike kills man on Venice Beach, Los Angeles

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Media captionLightning struck people on Venice Beach, as Wendy Urquhart reports

One man has been killed and several people have been hurt by lightning strikes on crowded Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California.

The lightning struck amid a rare summer thunderstorm, spreading panic among bathers and visitors.

Lifeguards fanned out across the beach and the water to attend to the injured, many of whom were treated at the scene.

Elsewhere in California, emergency crews are battling to contain wildfires that are threatening hundreds of homes.

At least 14 homes have been destroyed in the fires, which have blazed across drought-stricken grassland and forest.

The two fires in the centre of the state were 65% and 70% contained by Monday morning, and some of the 1,200 people evacuated as the fires advanced were allowed to return to their homes.

Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said firefighters have limited the spread of one of the fires through air support.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lifeguards race to treat the victim of a lightning strike at Venice Beach
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A firefighter scans the sea for the injured
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boats joined the search for victims
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many of those hurt received treatment on the scene

'Big flash of light'

The man killed at Venice Beach was identified on Monday as Nick Fagnano, 20. The exact cause of his death is not yet known, and it is unclear if he was struck directly.

His family told the San Jose Mercury News newspaper their son was an only child and a 2012 high school graduate who was about to enter University of Southern California as a third-year student. He planned to study urban development.

Friends told the newspaper Fagnano had decided to go into the water to rinse off when the lightning struck.

Witnesses say the sky darkened suddenly and screams filled the air as the storm hit the beach on Sunday afternoon. Eight people were admitted to hospital.

One of the injured is said to be in a critical condition. Several people received treatment for milder symptoms, including anxiety.

Stuart Acher told KABC-TV he was hit by lightning while playing volleyball.

"All of a sudden there was a big flash of light and a boom, and it felt like someone punched me in the back of my head," he told the station.

"It went down the whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over."

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Media captionFootage shows the flames engulf huge parts of the Californian countryside

Steve Christensen told Associated Press news agency that his friend had tried to help lifeguards searching for a missing swimmer.

"He went out to the water to find him and walked right into him," he said. "He was face down on the bottom."

Lightning also hit Catalina Island, near Los Angeles.

A 57-year-old man who was playing golf was injured in the strike. His condition is said to be stable.

Until the latest strike, at least 15 people had been killed this year by lightning in the US, according to the National Weather Service.

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