Lightning strikes claimed 5,706 lives in Odisha in 20 years: Global study

Researchers from six universities in India and Brazil found lightning-induced deaths are among the most unnoticed disaster fatalities and often ignored as it isn't considered as a public health issue.

Published: 22nd July 2022 07:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd July 2022 07:10 AM   |  A+A-

Thunderstorm, lightning

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha witnessed 21.73 lakh lightning strikes that claimed 5,706 lives in the last two decades. The deaths due to lightning continue to be on an upward spiral, revealed a global study that mapped main risk areas of lightning fatalities between 2000 and 2020 over Odisha.

Researchers from six universities in India and Brazil found lightning-induced deaths are among the most unnoticed disaster fatalities and often ignored as it is not considered as a public health issue.

Odisha has been hit by over 10,000 strikes every year between 2000 and 2020 except for 2001, 2017, and 2018. Despite the variabilities, lightning activities showed a clear increasing trend during the past 20 years.

Mayurbhanj district registered the highest 522 deaths, followed by Ganjam (359) and Dhenkanal (348), while Boudh (43) experienced the least number of fatalities. Mayurbhanj also has the highest number of lightning flashes while the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur has the lowest and the variation was basically due to differences in elevations.

The 2017-18 and 2001-02 periods registered the highest (465) and the lowest (174) fatalities, respectively. The average annual lightning-induced deaths stood at around 300. The study found the highest contribution to lightning death burden in the northern plateau comes from Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh.

Cuttack and Ganjam contributed heavily to coastal plain fatalities, while Dhenkanal and Balangir contributed to central region. All districts except Jharsuguda, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Sonepur and Boudh registered a steady increase in lightning-induced fatalities during 2014-20.

One of the authors of the study and Professor at Department of Geography of FM University Manoranjan Mishra said an increase in the annual trend of deaths has been recorded after 2013 in districts with mostly rural population and at the highest altitudes.

"The rise in death due to lightning in Odisha could be attributed to increasing thunderstorm activities and convective weather in Indian sub-continent and the thunderstorm intensification," he said.

Prof Mishra said mass-scale awareness with sustained efforts to create warning systems is the need of the hour to ensure instant lightning safety actions. Master trainers such as teachers, local leaders, and self-help groups for lightning security need to be created at village level.



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