Deaths due to lightning average 270 a year in state

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    OST Bureau

    Bhubaneswar, Sep 17

    The graph of deaths due to lightning strikes in the state has been rising every year if official records of the past 12 years are any indication. On an average, 270 die in the state due to lightning strikes every year.

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    In 2009,a total of 183 persons had lost their lives due to lightning strikes in the state. The year-wise casualty figures were 220 in 2002, 224 in 2003, 279 in 2004, 214 in 2005, 204 in 2006, 327 in 2007, 362 in 2011 and 230 in 2012, according to records available with the  office of the State’s Special Relief Commissioner.

    With three and a half months still left in the current year, the Commissioner’s office has already recorded 187 deaths due to lightning strikes this year.

    Lightning is considered a calamity beyond man’s control caused by nature. But what is puzzling is when it comes to payment of compensation to the kin of those killed in lightning strikes, lightning strikes are not considered natural calamity.

    Floods, cyclones, droughts, tsunami, earthquakes, fire, landslides, cloudbursts, cold wave, hailstorm, pest attack of crops and avalanches are the 12 disasters identified as natural calamities by the Centre. A special calamity fund has been created to provide compensation/relief to those affected and to the kins of those killed by the 12 calamities mentioned above. The state government is entitled to spend from the State Disaster Response Fund for control, creation of awareness and provision of assistance to the affected in case of occurrence of the 12 specified calamities. Funds for the same are provided by the Centre.

    Lightning strike and sun/heat stroke have neither been classified as natural calamities nor has provision been made to pay compensation/assistance from the State Disaster Response Fund in the event of damage or casualties caused by their occurrence.

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    For an interesting article on lightning : http://news.nationalgeographic.co.in/news/pf/96928625.html

    Excerpts from the article :

    Storm Anatomy

    On any given afternoon, unstable breezes and moisture ratchet up cumulonimbus clouds in a whirlwind of updrafts and downdrafts that cause particles of rain, ice, and snow to collide.

    The collisions prompt electrical charges to separate. Positive charges shoot high, while negative charges hang low. Electrical imbalance intensifies within the cloud and between the cloud and ground.

    “Mother Nature doesn’t like to see that,” said Hodanish.

    In an attempt to restore balance, to equalize the charge separation, lightning flashes rip through the clouds, snap out of the sky, and crack to the ground. The average flash packs enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb lit for three months.

    The flash of light heats the air around it to nearly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (27,760 degrees Celsius), which is hotter than the surface of the sun. The scorching heat forces the air to expand in an explosion of thunder.

    The most common form of lightning is intracloud lightning, where negative charges seek a connection with positive charges within the clouds. The flashes stay within the clouds, never making contact with the ground.

    The lightning that strikes people is a cloud-to-ground flash. This occurs when the charge imbalance between the cloud and ground becomes so great that the negative charge in the lower part of the cloud begins to travel towards the Earth’s surface.

    As the charge nears the ground, positive charges surge up tall objects like trees, houses, telephone poles, and, sometimes, people. When the negative charge from the cloud connects with these positive charges rising from the ground, a bright flash occurs.

    The flashes that reach the ground splinter trees, char forests, and kill people. Cost estimates of the damage caused by cloud-to-ground lightning total in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year, according to the National Weather Service.

    Lightning Safety

    To avoid death by a flash of lightning, the National Weather Service recommends following the “30/30” rule. When lightning is seen count the time until thunder is heard. If it is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter immediately and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard.

    “Typically, people go out and resume activity too quickly and end up getting hit,” said Hodanish.

    Covered picnic shelters, tents, and convertibles even with the roof up are not safe. Rakov said that shelter should be a substantial building such as a home or inside a car with a metal roof.

    “If neither are available, make yourself as small a target as possible,” he said. “Never stand near tall trees, metal fences, or water.” Metal objects are popular targets of lightning and power lines can conduct lightning surges over large distances, he added.

    According to a researcher, who is working on a scientific paper about a man who was struck and killed by the first lightning flash of a storm on top of Colorado’s Pikes Peak, “for some, no matter what precautions you take, you can be the unfortunate victim of lightning.”

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