Why Does India Lose 2,000 People to Lightning Every Year?
Lightning is an extremely common weather phenomena. At any given moment, lightning strikes the earth around 100 times per second. This doesn’t account for total lightning, which includes cloud-to-ground strikes as well as the much more common in-cloud strikes that bolt from cloud to cloud. While lightning is indeed common, it is also extremely dangerous and can even be deadly. Over the past decade, lightning strikes have accounted for approximately 2,000 deaths every year throughout India. Each years’ numbers are alarmingly disproportionate to the rest of the world’s lightning fatalities.
So why is it that India loses the most when it comes to lightning?
Lack of Appropriate Shelter
Oftentimes, lightning strikes people in India who are seeking shelter in the wrong places. There are no safe places outside when lightning is nearby. If you hear thunder, you are at risk of being killed by lightning, so head inside a full enclosed structure — one with plumbing and electricity. Pipes and electrical wires act as a conduit to the ground for electrical current if a structure is hit by lightning. Another good alternative is a car with metal roof, but avoid convertibles. The metal body will carry electric current away from occupants. Places to avoid include open areas, tall trees and telephone poles, sheds and pavilions – all of these places can be struck by lightning.
Unfortunately, many victims in India who work outdoors find themselves seeking shelter under a tree or open piece of machinery when lightning strikes. One such incident occurred on 6 May 2016 at Meghnagar village in Jhabua district. Five workers stood underneath a tree to seek shelter from a heavy rainstorm that pounded the area from noon to around 8:00pm. During those hours, Earth Networks detected about 1,000 lightning strikes in the area. Unfortunately, one of those strikes hit the tree that the workers were standing under, killing one and seriously injuring the other four.
Lack of Advanced Weather Warnings
If people don’t know a storm is coming in advance, they don’t have time to seek appropriate shelter. A similar case occurred in Umarkhed when three people died when lightning struck the tree they were under. The victims, ranging in age from 17-30, were on a farm during the evening hours of 10 May 2016 when the tragedy occurred.
The video above shows the 1,059 lightning strikes that battered Umarkhed and the areas to both the east and the south for a 12-hour period. Both in-cloud (purple) and cloud-to-ground (yellow) lightning strikes were present.
Knowing where lightning is expected and when it is to occur is critical when protecting oneself. In India, civilians are able to monitor Earth Networks’ Total Lightning data including Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts through our partner Skymet’s lightning map (pictured above) or through our Sferic Mobile app. Awareness of severe weather is critical in saving lives, especially in India.