Dangerous Skies at South African Soccer Match

  • Feb 18, 2016

Sixteen men were struck by lightning at a soccer match in KwaMaphumula in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on 17 November 2015. When the skies began to darken during the match between Bafana Bafana and Angola, a group of spectators huddled for shelter around a TV under a thatch roof. Lightning struck the thatch roof and 16 people underneath it, killing 1 and injuring the other 15.  5 of those injured were in serious condition and the other 10 were treated for minor injuries.

The video above shows the lightning storm making its way across the region during the early to late evening hours of 17 November. Earth Networks Total Lightning Network detected a good amount of yellow cloud-to-ground lightning moving through the region. Its quick disappearance over the sea before its quick reappearance on land could have ushered soccer fans into a false sense of safety.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time people at a soccer match have been struck by lightning in South Africa. This is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed in order to save lives. Back in 2011, soccer players fell to the ground as a lightning strike touched down on the field they were playing on. Many players were treated for shock.

So what’s the solution?

When the threat of lightning seems imminent, it’s not enough to seek shelter under an overhang, thatch roof, or tree. The best shelter to get to is a building with four walls and a roof. The idea of lightning striking a human can seem very random, however most people that are injured or killed by lightning strikes are struck indirectly. Minutes matter when it comes to seeking shelter during these types of storms, which is why Earth Networks prides itself on being able to alert people up to 9 minutes faster than other radar alternatives when our Total Lightning sensors and weather stations are in place.