Why death from lightning strike increases

Mushfique Wadud | Update:

.The news of casualties from lightning in the country in the last week of April panicked many people prompting them to think why this has increased.

More than 50 people died from lightning strikes across Bangladesh only in four days till 2 May. In the previous two months, at least 70 others were killed in lightning strikes.

However, a researcher claims lightning has not increased in the country although casualties from lightning might have increased since there is more media penetration now.

“There is no doubt that casualties from lightning have increased but it is difficult to ascertain, statistically if lightning strikes have been more frequent in the now than before,” said Ashraf Dewan,  a researcher and a senior lecturer at Spatial Sciences department of  Curtin University, Australia.

He explained that farmers working in their crop field are more vulnerable to lightning because there is no taller position than the men there. “As there are now few trees, lightning strikes the human first,” he said.

“When lightning strikes on two persons, the taller, not the short one, would mostly likely be hit first,” the expert  told Prothom Alo in a telephone interview.

It is deforestation which is the major culprit for the high casualties from lightning strikes in the country, according to AMM Amanat Ullah Khan, a retired professor of Dhaka University’s Geography and Environment department.

He also attributed the frequent lightning as reported now, to increased amount of warm moisture available in the air in recent times.

Towhida Rashid, Dhaka University’s meteorology department chairman, told the BBC Bangla that climate change has some links with increasing lightning strikes in the country.

She pointed out that Bangladesh witnessed 0.74 per cent rise in temperature which has some impacts on the increase in lightning.

However, Ashraf Dewan rejected such assumption of linking climate change with rise in lightening strikes.

Read more : 'Lightning kills 70 in 2 months'

At least 1,800 people were killed in lightning strikes between 2010 and 2017, shows a study by a Bangladesh Agricultural University professor.

A 2014 University of Berkeley study predicted that lightning strikes are expected to increase by 12 per cent for every degree Celsius of warming, with a 50 per cent rise in lightning expected by the end of the century.

Two ways to prevent death from lightning strikes

Both Amanat Ullah and Ashraf Dewan put emphasis on building awareness in order to prevent deaths from lightning.

“We should start a campaign to make people aware about what they should do if there is thunderstorm. One message should be sent to everyone that people must take shelter if there is any lightning,” said Amanat Ullah.

He said that sometimes women go outside of their house to collect their livestock or for other tasks, when there is a storm, and become victim of lightning.

Amanat thinks that government’s response to make people aware is not adequate and the media too have a role to play for building mass awareness.

Dwelling on lack of awareness, Ashraf Dewan observed that most casualties from lightening are in the rural areas.

He appreciated the government’s decision to plant palm trees, but said there must be some short-term solutions.

“It is possible to reduce casualties from lightning by conducting massive campaign,” he added.

Read more : Lightning kills at least 17 in 10 districts

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