Lightning Deaths: Steps not taken could’ve saved many lives
The government only recently decided to set up warning systems in 723 lightning prone areas in the country, even though 2,400 people died in lightning strikes over the past decade, including 19 just yesterday.
It will also set up shelters at different places.
"There are 723 lightning prone areas and we have decided to set up signalling systems from where we will send messages to everyone [in or near the area] on mobile phones 40 minutes before a strike," said Md Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management and relief, recently.
"We have also taken the decision to set up lightning shelters, like cyclone shelters, in empty spaces. They can be constructed every one or two kms in lightning prone areas," he said, adding that they have not yet calculated the number of shelters needed.
"A meeting was supposed to be held on June 28 with experts so that we can make a concrete plan, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we could not hold it. We will arrange it soon."
Farmers, fishermen and others who have to work in open spaces, especially on haors, usually become victims of lightning strikes.
Experts said worldwide temperatures are increasing, which is one of the main reasons for increased incidents of lightning in Bangladesh.
Other reasons include the lack of palm trees, betel nut trees, and coconut trees in rural areas, especially on roadsides, and the lack of arresters in buildings in urban areas, they said,
In December 2016, the government had taken the initiative to plant 38 lakh palm trees. However, as the trees died due to a lack of care and maintenance, the initiative came to no fruition.
According to disaster management and relief statistics, 2,328 people were killed in the last 10 years till 2020, of which highest 359 people were killed in 2018.
Meanwhile, data from Save The Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum (SSTF) said 177 people were killed in lightning strikes till June this year.
"We are going for a new method as the palm trees take a lot of time to mature," Enamur said.
Md Munir Hossain, research fellow and engineer of Institution Of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh, said worldwide temperatures are increasing and if it increases one degree Celsius in the world, the impact is felt at a degree or two higher. And the frequency of lightning incidents also then increases by eight to 10 percent in every square km area.
Around 10 haors – in Sunamganj, Habiganj, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Sylhet, Chapainawabganj, Chattogram, Naogaon, Dinajpur and Sirajganj – are considered the top 10 areas with risk of lightning.
Munir said that every year, two or three days before and after a cyclone are the riskiest times in terms of lightning.
"The government will have to identify those days as "lightning days" and will have to instruct people not to go onto fields during that time unless it is an emergency."
The Met office can detect it (lightning) a day before and should make people aware of it, he added.
"Through early warning systems, we can reduce 70 percent of the casualties."
Kabirul Bashar, president of the SSTF, said the government needs to plant palm, betel and coconut trees on the roadsides in rural areas to protect people from lightning strikes.
"The government will have to set up lightning arresters on top of every building in urban areas and this should be made mandatory for every building. The National Building Code and Rajuk also should make it mandatory before approving the construction of a building."