NEW DELHI: With 74 people killed due to lightning in UP, MP and Rajasthan in the last 24 hours, thunderstorms accompanied by lightning remains the largest killer natural disaster in the country, claiming over 2000 lives annually since 2004. Data collated by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) shows that people killed due to lightning strikes has doubled since the late 1960s. There were 2,876 deaths due to lightning in 2019. Between 1968 and 2019, this figure was around 1,000.
Condoling the loss of lives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for family members of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured. State governments have also announced compensation for those affected.Lightning incidents increase during the onset of monsoon over Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with high moisture levels and increase in surface temperature, making it favourable for formation of thunder clouds.
The mortality rates of heatwaves and lightning, have increased by 62.2 per cent and 52.9 per cent, respectively, whereas the mortality rate of tropical cyclones has reduced by 94 per cent in the past 20 years, according to a paper by the ministry of earth sciences. It is called “An assessment of long-term changes in mortalities due to extreme weather events in India: A study of 50 years’ data (1970-2019)”.
SD Pawar, project director thunderstorm dynamics, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said between 1995 and 2014, there was a jump of nearly 30 to 40 per cent in lightning incidents in India and the number of deaths has also increased significantly from the 1990s to now. Pawar said the reason behind the increase in lightning incidents may be linked to climate change and the availability of increased moisture over land due to warming.