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Death by lightning on the rise

  • Published at 05:06 pm May 13th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:37 pm May 13th, 2016
Death by lightning on the rise
The number of deaths due to lightning has been on the rise around Bangladesh lately, with at least 40 people killed by lightning in the past two days alone. According to a Bangladesh Disaster Management Forum study based on news reports, until yesterday at least 88 people have died after being struck by lightning this year. The death toll caused by this single climatic event was 265, 210 and 285 in 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively, the study said. Death by lightning has become increasingly common in the country over the years due to lack of awareness among people, said Gawher Nayeem Wahra, a disaster management expert. These deaths could be avoided if the met office properly disseminated warning ahead of storms and thundershowers, he told the Dhaka Tribune. “The death toll mentioned in the study are based on only cases reported. There are a lot more causalities that go unreported,” he added. The majority of the victims were killed in the northeast region of the country, mainly in the greater Mymensingh and haor areas. Nayeem, who is also a faculty member at the Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at Dhaka University, said the decreasing number of big, tall trees in the haor areas could be a reason why the number of people getting struck by lightning has increased in recent years. Incidents of lightning has been increasing lately, especially during the months of April and May when the pre-monsoon nor'wester storm commonly known as kalboishakhi occurs frequently. The number of deaths and injuries by lightning could be brought down if Bangladesh Meteorological Department issued lightning and thunderbolt warnings more efficiently as well as circulate precautionary measures among people, said Ahsan Uddin Ahmad, executive director of the Centre for Global Changes (CGC). However, when contacted, a meteorologist at the met office told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that the office had been releasing weather warnings regularly, but people did not take them seriously. “People pay attention to cyclone warnings only; that is the only climatic event they follow and prepare for,” he said, seeking anonymity. Ahsan said the warnings issued by the met office are often too difficult to comprehend for most common people. Nayeem, on the other hand, blamed the government for not consider lightning as a serious disaster issue. “If the government took this issue seriously, it would include lightening in the National Disaster Management Plan,” he said. “Unfortunately Bangladesh considers tsunami as a more serious disaster, despite the limited risk, than lightening.”
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