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The weather can kill

  • Published at 01:05 pm July 7th, 2018
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What are we doing to prevent lightning deaths? Photo: BIGSTOCK

Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world

In the last three months, over 80 people have been killed by lightning strikes. The Earth is expected to warm by 4C in the 21st century, and for an increase in every 1C there will be a rise of 12% in the frequency of lightning strikes, as said by Prof Romps and his team at University of California, Berkeley. 

The heat energy acts as a fuel for lightning storms -- since 2010 till 2017, over 1,800 people have lost their lives in Bangladesh due to thunderstorms and lightning. Even though the Bangladesh government has declared lightning strikes as an official natural disaster in 2016, Bangladesh Meteorological Department only announces warnings before thunderstorms, given that they can predict them in time.

During the months of April, May, and June, we face the hottest temperatures. As there is more heat, water evaporates and this means more rain. This year, there has been an unusual pattern of continuous rainfall and thunderheads. These electrical lightings have affected farmers mostly, who cultivate land with their electrical equipment, and other people in the rural open areas. 

Common people are victims too -- when the weather worsens or there is a hint of a storm, women and kids go out to bring their livestock home, which makes them prone to lightning strikes. Experts say, people who stand near electrical, metal towers or take shelter under trees get hit by lightning. This only happens because they are not educated or informed about the safety measures. 

We have stepped into the digital era, where every household has access to 3G devices; we all have cell phones and most industrial and agricultural sectors are using advanced technology and heavy machinery; we are progressing, but without fully comprehending the effects. 

We need to keep an account for the consequences of using such technology. Bangladesh’s citizens are not fully aware of the consequences due to the lack of social campaigns and knowledge of precautionary measures. Thus, even if there are official disaster warnings, it is difficult for people to comprehend them and so the warnings go ignored. 

The frequency of lightning has increased in Bangladesh, especially in Satkhira, Dinajpur, Kishoreganj, Lalmonirhat, Chapainawabganj, Sunamganj, Brahmanbaria, and Habiganj. Many have said, this is due to deforestation and the exponential growth in the population of the country. 

The government has started planting palm trees in parts of the country -- a long-term solution which will not reduce the death toll immediately. It is not likely that there will be any pause in the business of cutting trees down, whether it be for land or for various products. So there should be ways we can fight back other than just planting trees. 

We are not absolutely safe in our houses either. Lightning is an electrical discharge between the atmosphere and land bound objects -- as long as we avoid using the water supply, electrical appliances, cords, wires, and metal-based objects we’ll be safe. 

Another way is to install lightning arrestors or lightning rods in buildings to save us from being victims of thermal burns and other severe injuries, even death. The government should take an initiative to install lightning rods into the rural parts of Bangladesh, especially around vast open areas. 

Bangladesh is said to be one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and also the most affected by climate change. People are dying for various reasons, and at times we say it’s common. Yes, it’s common to see lightning and thunderstorms, but untimely deaths should not be something that becomes common. 

Every year, more than 250 people are dying because of this phenomenon, and it is our duty to make people aware about these harmful hazards and their preventative measures. 

Tasneem Kibria Orpa is a freelance contributor.