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Lightning strikes killed 2,800 in 10 years

13 October 2021

Staff Reporter :
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman yesterday said that the government is planning to launch a project at a cost of Tk 476 crore to save people from lightning strikes that killed 2,800 people in the last 10 years in Bangladesh.
Under the project, the government will buy devices that will give a warning 40 minutes before a lightning strikes, he said during a press conference at the secretariat on Tuesday.
In addition, shelters will be set up to avoid fatalities during lightning strikes. Rahman said Bangladesh suffers from 16 categories of disasters at present. Lightning strike was added to the list in 2015.
"In some modern countries, there are early warning systems for lightning strikes, like cyclone warnings. There are devices that can detect them 40 minutes in advance and identify where they will occur. We will install such devices around the country," he said.
The authorities will give priority to lightning-prone areas, the state minister said, adding that his ministry will start working on a system so that locals can receive alerts via text messages.
The government is also planning to build lightning shelters, much like flood or cyclone shelters, he mentioned. There will be pucca houses on one decimal of land and each house will have a lightning arrester.
The project has already been formulated and Dhaka University has been tasked with conducting the feasibility study, the state minister added.
"Afterwards, we will send the feasibility report to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for approval. We will start our work once she gives her nod," he told reporters.
Tips to stay safe during lightning
Lightning strikes are commonplace during monsoon in Bangladesh, when hundreds of people - mostly farmers working under the open sky - are killed every year.
There is a correlation between thunderbolts and temperature, according to a study published in 2017.
Around 5,000-6,000 meters above the level of Bangladesh's atmosphere, the temperature remains humid and warm from late April till the third week of May every year, leading to an increase in such incidents, the study notes.
The Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) suggests nine tips for staying safe from thunderbolts. They are:
1.    Take shelter under a nearby concrete house. If there are frequent lightning strikes, avoid open or high places.
2.    Stay away from trees and electric poles as there is a high possibility of lightning striking tall trees or electric poles. Passenger sheds are also unsafe.
3.    Do not stay close to windows at home when there is lightning. Keep the windows closed and stay within the house.
4.    Avoid metallic objects. Do not touch railings, metal pipes, etc during lightning. Do not even touch landline telephones; many people get injured that way.
5.    Avoid touching all connected electric appliances, including TV and fridge. Do not touch TVs, refrigerators, etc. If lightning starts, disconnect all plugs from electric lines.
6.    If you are in a car during lightning, try to return home as soon as possible. If there is heavy thunderstorm and rain, take the car under a shed. Touching the windowpanes can also be dangerous at that time.
7.    Waterlogging is very common during the rainy season and accumulated water can become electrified by snapped electric lines. So it is better to stay home during lightning.
8.    Walking barefoot or using wet leather shoes during lightning strikes is very dangerous. Rubber gumboots are the safest option.
9.    Remain alert on the road during lightning. Avoid lightning-prone spots. If someone is injured, try to take them to hospital quickly.

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