Bangladesh is prone to lightning hazards. The death toll from thunderstorms and lightning has increased recently. On average, more than 200 people die every year in Bangladesh due to lightning. The monthly trend analysis represents that the month of May, June and October unveil increasing trend with the highest value in June. It is observed that the number of deaths due to lightning is higher in rural areas than in urban areas in Bangladesh.
Lightning is an enormous flash of electricity in the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and the ground. It is one of the most noteworthy displays in nature. It is also one of the most fatal natural phenomena across the world.
Most lightning fatalities are in open areas or near a tree. Outside is not safe enough when thunderstorms are in the area. It is suggested to run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
There is little one can do to substantially reduce risk if she/he outside in a thunderstorm. The only safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle. Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. Stay away from water, wet items, such as ropes, and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are excellent conductors of electricity.
Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.
A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as one could avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows.
Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.
While inside, also better to: Do not wash hands, take a shower or wash dishes. • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
The important factors in overcoming sufferings from lightning injury, or from any illness or major injury for that matter, are: 1) having a supportive family/friends network. 2)becoming own advocate and learning as much as you can about this disability or having a family member do this for the survivor.3)finding a physician willing to listen, read, learn and work with the survivor and their family.
There is no ‘specific’ treatment for lightning injuries. Care of the brain injury and chronic pain problems is similar to that for concussion and nerve injury from other causes. The Government health officials of the vulnerable areas could assist injured people in priority basis.
There is need for the government to intercede in reducing the risk of lightning technologically and administratively. It is expected that responsible authorities will act appropriately for reducing the disaster risks in line with the Disaster Management Vision of the Government of Bangladesh.
Steps to preclude demises caused by lightning should be a priority for the relevant authorities. Even though the incidences and deaths are distributed, total impact of lightning is huge. A comprehensive study could be undertaken to analyze effects of lightning in Bangladesh considering the fatalities, damages and the susceptibilities involved.
Forecasting lightning is very complicated .However, Bangladesh meteorological department could take steps to establish lightning detection network to locate different types of lightning analyzing the technological and economic viability and possible outcomes. Support from developed nations could be reconnoitered in line with international DRR framework for this matter and related issues. Appropriate sensors could be installed to reduce lightning in considering possible result, expenses and views of local stakeholders.
The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and associated NGOs in collaboration with Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC) should work with farmers’ community, who are most vulnerable to lightning, for improving their awareness level and reducing the relevant risks. Cross country learning and experience sharing particularly with India could be explored in this regard.
The authorities of schools with the support of the line ministries should come forward to alert students for reducing lightning risk and vulnerabilities.
Tall trees such as betel, coconut, and palm trees can be planted abundantly in susceptible locations for a protection from lightning after a proper research in this regard.
Developing effective mass awareness materials and proper dissemination of knowledge, information and good practices on lightning protection and safety measures is expected from relevant authorities and organizations in a coordinated manner to minimize the death toll and other exposures to the people and livestock and also to minimize the lightning damages to assets, industries, business and services such as power and communication.
Farid Hasan Ahmed. Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Expert, and a Development Lawyer