Residents of a small village in Sri Lanka’s Chilaw district scrambled about with pots and buckets on Monday, picking up live fish that fell out of the sky. According to the BBC, villagers first reported hearing loud smacking noises and impacts on their roads and houses. On closer inspection, the village was found to be covered in small, yet edible fish. People lined up along roads leading into the village, picking up the fish and depositing them in water-filled buckets. For many residents, the rain of fish meant a few free meals.
“The most likely cause of this unusual event probably relates to the formation of a tornado,” said BBC forecaster Steve Cleaton.
Tornadoes, or similar phenomenon like water spouts, can lift fish and other animals from shallow water and dump them elsewhere. This is especially common near lakes, rivers, or coastal areas with a dense population of species that live close to the surface of the water. Once airborne, high winds could carry the fish for long distances even after the tornado dispersed. Villagers believe that Monday’s unexpected delivery of fish actually came from a nearby river after a recent storm.
While a rain of frogs, fish, and other animals is possible anywhere a tornado can form, scientists say the event is still very rare. Tornadoes generally form away from large expanses of water, unlike hurricanes, reducing the chances that a large amount of fish will be sucked up. There have been few reported cases where flightless animals “rained” from the sky in the United States, many of which have been discredited by scientists.
The strangest part of Monday’s surprise precipitation was that many of the fish were still alive. A similar incident occurred in 2010 near the Northern Australia town of Lajamanu, where locals found hundreds of half-frozen but still live fish falling out of the sky. Meteorologists said those fish likely came from hundreds of miles away.
You can see a video of the Sri Lankan villagers gathering fish below: