Deaths by lightning strikes have risen significantly in the country that has taken many lives in monsoon period.
Being one of the most erratic and unpredictable characteristics of a thunderstorm, none can guarantee an absolute protection from lightning.The environmentalist stated that the number of death which is stuck by lightning is rising due to rise in temperature and cutting down of excessive number of trees.
Most of the casualties happen in rural areas, farm field or playground because of lacking in lightning protection system.
Death or injury caused by lightning can greatly reduce by knowing and following proven lightning safety guidelines, experts said.
According to disaster management and relief ministry data, over 2,000 people were killed and many others injured by lightning strikes in different parts of the country, mainly in the central and northern parts in the last nine years.
According to the department, a total of 359 people were killed by lightning in 2018, breaking all previous records.
The number of fatalities was 307 in 2017 while it was 217 in 2016, 160 in 2015, 170 in 2014, 185 in 2013, 201 in 2012 and 179 in 2011.According to Save the Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum, a non-governmental organization, a total of 126 people were killed and 53 injured by lightning strikes in the months of May and June in Bangladesh.
Of the killed, 21 were women, seven were children and 98 were men.
In the month of May, 60 people were killed including nine women, three children and 48 men. The month also saw 28 people injured by lightning strikes.
In June, 66 people were lethally struck by lightning. There were 12 women, four children and 50 men among the dead. The lightning strikes also injured 25 people.
The highest number of deaths was reported in Kishoreganj with 16 in just May and June. The districts of Satkhira, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Naogaon, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Tangail are following Kishoreganj in terms of casualties.
Abdul Alim, Executive Chief (research cell) of Save the Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum, said, “The research survey is based on the reports published in 10 national and local dailies, some online news portals and television scrolls.”
He said most of these incidents took place while harvesting paddy or fishing in the rain. Many died due to being in tin shed or houses made of hay while some were killed while taking shelter under tall trees during rain.
Experts said the actual level of casualty from lightning could be much higher because many cases go unreported.
In Bangladesh, thunderstorm usually occurs from March to May but sometimes the time frame is extended to November and October.
Md Rashim Molla, Secretary General of Save the Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum, said “Climate change, the number of tall trees decreasing, increase in rain cloud, random set-up of mobile towers and increase in temperature worldwide lead to the unusual increase in thunder and lightning.”
“One degree rise in temperature will cause the chances of thunderstorms to rise by 10 percent,” he added.
Disaster management expert Gawher Nayeem Wahra said, “The shortage of adequate tall trees could be a reason for the rise in the number of deaths from lightning.”
The government should impose ban on cutting all kinds of tall trees, he said, adding that, “We need to plant more and more tall trees like palm and coconut to reduce the number of deaths from lightning.”
He also stressed the installation of lightning prevention system, a mandatory provision under Bangladesh National Building Code, to make people safe in urban areas.
“The government may install lightning protection system in the rural area to reduce the casualty. Such kind of deaths may be reduced through different awareness program,” he added.
When contacted, Abdur Rahman, meteorologist of Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD), told daily sun they forecast warning through their website and bulletin. He said, “During the lightning storm there is no place which is absolutely safe from a lightning threat; however, avoid water, high ground, open spaces and all metal objects.” “People can take shelter in a substantial building or a motor vehicle (windows closed).
He also said large enclosed structures (substantially constructed buildings) tend to be much safer than smaller or open structures” he added.
According to the awareness materials, anyone could go safe place after calculating the distance of lightning.
“If you see lightning, count the number of second until you hear thunder. To calculate the distance of thunder in kilometer divided the number of seconds by 3. If the thunder is heard 3 second after a flash, the lighting is one kilometer away, if it is heard 15 second after a flash, the lighting is five kilometers away.”
“Lighting about 10km away is a warning to take shelter. It means, if the first lightning is 10 km away, the second one could hit you.”
Lightning tends to strike isolated objects in an open area. Stay away at least four meters away from an isolated tree during lightning.