Lightning strike casualties on rise

Kathmandu, May 31

In recent years, lightning has emerged as one of the deadliest natural disasters with 28 deaths and 60 injuries recorded from April 13 to May 31 in this year alone.

According to Nepal Disaster Report 2015 released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it may be due to climate change or increasing population.

If the 8,979 deaths and 23,302 injuries caused by the devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake of April 25, 2015 and its subsequent aftershocks are excluded from the data of the last five years (2068-2072 BS), casualties from lightning outdo all other types of natural disasters.

A five-year figure maintained by the National Emergency Operation Centre under the MoHA shows that as many as 553 persons were killed and 1,132 other injured by lightning strikes during the period.

At least 103 died in 2068 BS, 131 in 2069 BS, 111 in 2070 BS, 128 in 2071 BS and 80 in 2072 BS after being struck by lightning. Incidents of avalanche claimed 31, boat capsize 26, drowning 33, cold wave 68, epidemic 63, fire 337, flood 395, landslide 507, heavy rainfall 33 and windstorm/snowstorm 73 lives during the same period.

According to the ministry, number of deaths caused by lightning has been increasing since 2066 BS, thanks to lack of awareness. An analysis of distribution of human deaths in different districts shows that amongst various disaster types, lightning has caused more human deaths in 44 districts.

The MoHA pays Rs 40,000 as relief to the family of the deceased through the concerned District Administration Office.

Although districts of all the development and ecological regions have been affected by lightning, casualty is more predominant in central and eastern hills and eastern Tarai.

Lightening mainly occurs before the onset of monsoon in the months between March and June due to the natural electrical discharge within the atmosphere and the imbalance between positive and negative charges.

The MoHA warned that lightning hits the highest point it can find and passes through it to the ground, making trees particularly hazardous places to take shelter during rainfall.

The best option to protect oneself from lightening is to stay indoors and avoid using mobile phone when it threatens.