Lightning strikes have killed 403 people in China so far this year, equalling the total number of deaths from lightning in the whole of last year, the China Meteorological Administration said.

The administration attributed the higher rate of deaths to more frequent and severe lightning storms, Xinhua news agency reported.

Lightning storms caused 2,525 accidents between January and June, of which 52 involved fires, causing more than $10.6 million in direct economic losses, the administration said.

Chinese scientists have warned that global warming is likely to intensify extreme weather patterns, and severe storms in recent years may be a prelude to this.