Six students at Rattanak Mondul Secondary School in Battambang province were electrocuted and knocked unconscious on the afternoon of June 27 when three lightning strikes hit a tree growing in the schoolyard about 20m away from their classroom.

Rattanak Mondul district police chief Sorn Nil said the students injured by the lightning strikes were five girls and one boy all between the ages of 12 and 15. One of the girls, Lot Mina, 15, was seriously injured and is still being treated at Battambang Provincial Referral Hospital.

"After the lightning strike at the school, the police and the teachers and school officials all helped bring the children to the Rattanak Mondul District Referral Clinic immediately for treatment. One of them was then transferred to the provincial referral hospital due to her serious condition.

Chhuon Sophea, an English teacher at the school who was present for the incident, told The Post that the school had a zinc roof and when it rained heavily, the day's lessons were routinely interrupted by the noise from the rain until it stopped.

Sophea said some of the children were playing games while others were drawing or chatting. The students who were injured were gathered at the doorway to the classroom watching the storm outside when there was a sudden flash of light and then three lightning strikes hit the tree in the schoolyard in quick succession.

"First I saw sparks exploding from the base of the tree about 20m in front of my classroom. Then I heard sounds like gunfire or explosions, as if three shots had been fired, it was that loud. And then the kids standing in the doorway all just collapsed in a heap," he said. "The other students were scared and began crying and I immediately called for help to bring the injured students to hospital."

Five of the six injured students were discharged from the hospital by 10:30am the next day on June 28, with the exception of Lot Mina, whose injuries are more severe and are still being treated at the provincial referral hospital, according to school principal Pheng Vuthy, who paid her a visit earlier.

"To be frank, her condition is still very troubling. She has apparently lost much of her memory to where she doesn't even recognise her own sister. Our sincerest sympathies go out to her and her family," he said.