Two people have been reported dead while two are in critical conditions following a lighting strike near the White House, Washington DC on Thursday.
All the victims were taken to local hospitals, but on Friday morning, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that two of them – 75-year-old Donna Mueller and 76-year-old James Mueller, both from Janesville in Wisconsin – had been pronounced dead.
The police report stated that the other two adults remain in critical condition.
A White House spokeswoman said the Biden administration was “saddened by the tragic loss of life.”
“We are praying for those still fighting for their lives,” said Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
According to the Washington Post, Scientists say that the climate crisis is increasing the likelihood of lightning strikes across the United States, after lightning struck at a square near the White House, leaving two people dead and two others in critical condition.
The District of Columbia fire and emergency medical services department said the four people were struck in Lafayette Park, located directly outside the White House complex.
While details of the strike remained unclear, the report disclosed it was the result of a large thunderstorm that swept through the city in the evening, unleashing high winds and severe weather.
The hot, humid conditions in the capital were primed for electricity. Air temperatures topped out at 94F (34C), or 5F higher than the 30-year normal maximum temperature, according to the National Weather Service.
More heat can draw more moisture into the atmosphere, while also encouraging rapid updraft, two factors for charged particles, which lead to lightning.
A study released in 2014 in the journal Science warned that the number of lightning strikes could increase by 50% in this century in the US, with each 1.8F of warming translating into a 12% rise in the number of lightning strikes.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre put out a statement on Friday morning, saying: “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park. Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
In a separate incident on Thursday, a lightning strike in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton national forest killed one student and injured another, officials said.
John D Murphy, 22, of Boston, died of cardiac arrest after being hit by lightning while on a trip with a group from the National Outdoor Leadership School, a non-profit global wilderness school.