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Northeastern Bangladesh vulnerable to lightning strikes

Published : 27 Apr 2023 09:47 PM
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The north, northeastern and northwestern regions of Bangladesh, especially the northeastern part of the country which is surrounded by Haor, is very vulnerable to lightning strikes, experts said. 

The lightning strikes take place in Bangladesh generally during April to June pre-monsoon season when agricultural activity in Haor areas is also most intense, resulting to high fatalities among farmers.

The geographical location of the country’s northeastern part makes the region vulnerable to lightning strikes as the region is surrounded by Haor which is a unique wetland ecosystem in the northeastern part of the country that is typically found nowhere else in the world. 

As the Haor region as well as the low-lying plains and wetlands are most prone to lightning strikes, farmers are highly vulnerable while working in fields during the cultivation season. 

Alongside the Haor areas, lightning strikes take place in other places of the country. Two people were killed and two others injured in lightning strikes at Shibganj upazila in Chapainawabganj on Thursday (April 27).

The deceased were identified as Shahin Ali, 20, son of Abdul Quader of Gopanagar; and Asim Ali, 12, son of Harun Ali of Sharatnagar village under Shyampur union in the upazila.

Locals said that thunderbolts struck four people in Mastan Bazar area at about 2:00 pm, leaving two dead on the spot and two others injured. Later, the injured were sent to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH).

Officer in-Charge (OC) Shibganj Police Station Chowdhury Zubayer Ahmed confirmed the matter. 

Meanwhile, at least nine people were killed and several others were injured in one day on April 23 due to lightning in three districts of northeastern region. The deceased were the residents of Sunamganj, Moulvibazar and Netakona.  

Among the people killed in the lightning strikes, six were residents of Sunamganj district. Three of them are residents of Chatak upazila, two were residents of Doarabazar upazila and one was resident of Tahirpur upazila. 

Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Chhatak police station Khan Mohammad Mainul Zakir said that of the three lightning victims of Chhatak upazila died while working in paddy fields. 

OC of Dowarabazar police station Deb Dulal also said that two victims of the upazila died on the spot while harvesting paddy. The victim of Tahirpur upazila was also harvesting paddy when he was struck by lightning, said Tahirpur OC Syed Iftekhar Hossain.

 Before the incidents of nine people’s death in lightning strikes, three children were killed on April 21 in separate lightning strikes in Jaintiapur upazila in Sylhet, another district of northeastern Bangladesh. 

However, deaths from lightning strikes have increased significantly in the country in recent years. Mainly farmers in villages are losing their lives in absence of any formal protection and lack of awareness. 

Experts said that if the temperature rises by one degree, the risk of lightning increases by 10 to 12 percent. In recent years, lightning in the country has increased. An unprecedented heatwave that raised temperatures in Bangladesh was sweeping over the country in that time when some people died in lightning strikes.

AKM Nazmul Haque, a metrologist of Bangladesh Meteorological Department; has said that the period April to June is identified as the  most vulnerable time for lightning strikes in Bangladesh. This is because the weather the country remains hottest at this time of the year. Additional water vapors are produced at the period due to excessive temperature. This water vapor acts as the main force of lightning.  More thunderstorms are created following higher water vapors and then frequent thunderstorms occur, said the metrologist. 

According a study on this natural phenomenon in Bangladesh carried out by Curtin University in Australia, on an average, 8.4 million lightning strikes occur in Bangladesh every year, 70 percent of which occurs from April to June. 

Another recent study says that farmers account for nearly 72% of all lightning deaths in Bangladesh. 

According to meteorologists, the northern, northeastern and northwestern regions of Bangladesh are the most prone to lightning. 

Lightning strikes are more common in the Haor region. Because there is more water vapor in Haor areas, while there is lack of protection system there. 

Meteorologist AKM Nazmul Haque said that Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Habiganj and Sylhet are most vulnerable to lightning strikes. Tangail, Jamalpur and Mymensingh are also vulnerable. However, no area in Bangladesh can be said to be out of danger of lightning, he added. 

According to the BMD, 150 to 200 people, mostly farmers, are killed by lightning in Bangladesh every year. Many cattle also die. 

Bangladesh ranks fifth in the world in terms of this number of annual deaths. Considering the number of deaths, the government declared lightning a national disaster in 2016.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in lightning strikes in open fields and haors across the country from 2012 to 2022. 

According to the data of Disaster Management and Relief Ministry and some others, of them, 201 people were killed in 2012; 185 in 2013; 170 in 2014; 226 in 2015; 391 in 2016; 307 in 2017; 359 in 2018; 198 in 2019; 255 in 2020; 329 in 2021 and while about 300 people died in lightning strikes in 2022. 

Experts, rights activists and other called upon the government to take initiative so that the incidents of deaths in lightning strikes could be reduced in the country, while they also called upon the people to be alert during the season of lightning strikes.   

Rashim Molla, secretary general of Save the Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum; suggested setting up lightning-proof towers and planting trees to prevent lightning.

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Thursday (April 27), leader of the organization which is working on lightning awareness said that said that awareness campaign should be launched, asking people to stay indoors during thunderstorms. And since lightning is more common in the Haor area, lightning proof towers should be built on a lot of rooftops. Apart from this, the issue should be included in the textbooks to make people more aware about lightning, he told the Bangladesh. 

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, secretary general at Save Our Sea; suggested measures such as planting taller trees, including date palm, coconut and betel nut, and installing tall poles that can attract lightning strikes and away from people to protect farmers from lightning strikes. Communicating timely meteorological warnings, particularly to farmers, through channels such as radio and SMS can help reduce the number of lightning-related fatalities and injuries, he said.