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Death by lightning: Sunamganj sees 90 dead over 4 years

  • Published at 01:27 pm May 24th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:17 am June 7th, 2018
Representational photo

Most of the dead were farmers, fishermen, students, housewives and children

At least 90 people have been killed and countless others injured by lightning strikes over the past four years in Sunamganj. 

Around 37 people died in 2015, 20 people in 2016, 11 people in 2017, and 22 people were killed until May of this year. 

Most of the deceased were farmers, fishermen, students, housewives and children. 

These victims were struck by lightning while harvesting paddy, bringing cattle from the field, fishing in haors, crossing the river, working or playing in the open, and returning from schools. 

Experts have attributed the sudden rise of death by lightning to late paddy harvest, lack of awareness among,and a dearth of trees in the haor areas. 

Sayeed Ahmed Chowdhury, a senior officer with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department in Sylhet, said lightning strikes are frequent in haor areas as there is no protection.

“Lightning usually hits the highest, longest and tallest objects. Since there are no tall trees in these areas, people become the target.”

Across the border from Sunamganj lie the hills of India’s Meghalaya.Locally formed clouds and water vapour cannot cross the hills. They rise air pushes up the hills and then forms orographic thunderstorms. This phenomenon becomes more frequent in late spring and early summer when the surface becomes heated.

The government is constructing five weather offices with the assistance of World Bank in five upazilas in Sunamganj. Furthermore, the lightning detection instrument set up in Sylhet has a range of 500km. The detection system is expected to help forecast lightning and minimize loss of life.

Md Emran Hossain, deputy director of the Local Government Engineering Department in Sunamganj, said climate change and manmade disasters are the reasons for the intensity of lightning strikes. 

He said: “We will propose raising the compensation from Tk25,000 to Tk1 lakh.”

The government will take coordinated initiatives through the local government to plant tall trees in haor areas to prevent such deaths, he added.