Deaths from lightning a major concern

ANM Mohibub uz Zaman

21 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Deaths caused by lightning strikes now become one of the major concerns in the country as the number of deaths from it is much higher than other natural disasters.

Lightning poses a serious threat to public safety as an increasing number of people are losing lives due to the natural disaster every year, experts said.

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. The victims are mostly agricultural or day-labourers and they are the lone bread earners of their families.

A largely agricultural and labour-intensive economy, poor infrastructure and tropical climate all play a role in higher rates of lightning-related deaths and injuries in the country.  

Dr AKM Saiful Islam, professor of Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), told the Daily Sun that Bangladesh and India are the most lightning prone countries in South Asia and the number of deaths from lightning strikes is higher in those countries.

“The number of deaths by lightning is now much higher than cyclone, flood and other disaster in the country,” he said, adding that early warning system and specific lightning censor can reduce the number of casualty.

According to an international study, there are at least 40 lightning strikes per square kilometre in Bangladesh, he said.

A total of 2,774 people were killed in lightning in the last 10 years till June 2020. Of them, 526 were children, 401 female and 1,847 male, according to Save the Society & Thunderstorm Awareness Forum. The highest number of deaths, 350, was reported in 2016 in Bangladesh.

“A total of 247 people were killed by lightning strikes in 2020 while the number was around 34 till Wednesday this year,” said Kamrun Nahar, Office in Charge (Emergency Response Centre) of Department of Disaster Management.

On Tuesday, at least 17 people were killed after lightning strikes in different places of the country. On Thursday, a total of four people were killed by lightning strikes.

Lightning is the spark of electricity between clouds, or between clouds and the ground. Lightning occurs when two clouds with different electric charge content come near each other.

There are different types of lightning and the most common types include intra-cloud, cloud-to cloud, cloud to ground and cloud to air. The most common type of lightning is the intra-cloud lightning.

Study showed that lack of awareness among the people and ignorance of the safety rules is one of the main reasons for the higher rates of deaths and injuries of the people in Bangladesh.

The impacts of lightning vary greatly between more developed countries and lesser-developed areas. Lightning safety education and awareness play a key role in minimising the death tolls around the world.

A significant education and awareness have been triggered to minimise the death tolls in the developed countries like United States.

Dr Mohan Kumar Das, senior researcher of IWFM at the BUET, told the Daily Sun that global warming is responsible for the highest amount of lightning in Bangladesh.

The government should introduce early forecast of the place and time of lightning to reduce the number of casualty, he said.

Lightning related deaths are the highest in April, May and June while the highest death was reported in May.

The highest temperature was 1.7 degree Celsius higher than the regular one while the lowest temperature was 0.2 degree Celsius higher than the regular one in April, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

The highest temperature of the month was recorded 41.2 degree Celsius in Jashore in 2021.