Lightning deaths in Thar
Rain has always been good news for water starved Pakistan, especially the drought-hit Thar region. Occasionally, nature’s thunder brings death and destruction, mostly hitting the poor segments. These deaths, however, stem from roof collapses, electrocution, drowning and flashfloods. Off and on, lightening also chips in its share in deaths. For the first time, late on Thursday, a bolt of thunder killed 20 people — men, women and children – in a single strike in the rural areas of Mithi, Chhachhi, near Islamkot town, Ram Singh Sodho village near Diplo town and other villages in Tharparkar district. As the population is scattered and often without modern communication means, officials say, more casualties may be reported in the next few days. Also, 30 people were admitted to public hospitals for treatment of burns from the lightning. Besides human casualties, lightning claimed hundreds of animals’ lives as well.
The mass scale deaths from lightning should draw our attention towards this overlooked threat. These casualties could have been avoided had the public been educated about relevant safety drills. Most of the lightning deaths occur from cardiorespiratory arrest, while those surviving the flash of lightning suffer amnesia, paraesthesiae and traumatic spinal injury.
Our textbooks should have lessons on lightning and how to behave in rains. The public should be taught that when thunder strikes, they should immediately take shelter in a building equipped with plumbing and electrical wiring. A probe will reveal that the lightning struck those people who were inside their houses but those structures had no plumbing or electricity. All over the world, lightning related deaths have been reduced just because of plumbing and electric wiring as these installations divert electric shocks. Similarly, getting on a fully enclosed metal vehicle can save you from lighting. Standing under a tree or taking refuge in huts and tents increases the risk of being struck. If one is trekking a mountainous trail or peak, it is better to avoid high-risk areas such as summits, ridgelines, isolated trees and skilifts.
With an increase in global warming, these unpredictable weather patterns may lead to more lightning incidents in Pakistan. And, to be sure, most of the lightning victims are poor people in rural areas. It is time the public should be educated about anticipating thunderbolts and safely managing them.
Too little relief for wheat farmers