Lightning hit a reservation in northern Colombia, authorities have said. According to officials, the lightning struck on Monday morning while the tribe was performing a traditional ceremony, reducing the area hit to ashes.
Luis Quintero, operational commander of Santa Marta police, said: “It’s a terrible scene, it was reduced to ashes, everything was burned.
Wiwa believe that lightning was a punishment. Ramón Gil, the highest authority of these indigenous expects messages of nature are understood.
“Thank God, as it has been said, they were able to come to their senses after this strike when the lightning hit, and we were able to evacuate the majority of the people there.”
Among the injured were men, women and children and they were evacuated by army helicopter to hospitals and clinics in the nearby city of Santa Marta for treatment.
Military officials said that another 15 members of the Wiwa tribe that live high in the coastal Sierra Nevada range on the Caribbean coast were injured with second or third degree burns, six of them seriously. Sixty spiritual leaders were reported to be in the building at the time.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the deaths and ordered the military to evacuate by helicopter injured tribe members who otherwise would have to walk downhill six hours to the nearest road.
“We show our condolences and solidarity with the indigenous people who were affected by lightning in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, which caused the unfortunate death of 11 of our citizens and another 15 people were injured,” Santos said.