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German police investigating after a lightning strike killed three women and left a fourth in intensive care believe they were hit because they were using mobile phones in the wooden hut where they had taken shelter on a golf course near the central German city of Korbach.

Although surrounded by trees the lightning bolt bypassed the trees and struck the hut where the four women aged 41, 50, 66 and 67 were using the telephones on hole number 7 of the Waldeck golf course in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The lightning strike was witnessed by the husbands of the four women who called emergency services.

Police spokesman Joerg Virnich said: "It would have been wiser to switch off the phones which it is known can be a conductor of lightning."

Police said that glass and other debris was widely scattered after the lightning strike which showed the force with which the estimated 300,000 volt lightning strike hits the hut.

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