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Spike in lightning strike deaths in India

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Around 2,500 people die in lightning strikes around India each year, according to government figures, compared to just 45 in the United States.

Cattle and other animals are often killed or maimed during severe thunderstorms, with one burst of lightning in northeastern Assam state wiping out a herd of 18 elephants in May.

Thunderbolts contain as much as a billion volts of electricity and can cause immense damage to buildings when they hit.

Earlier this year at another fort in Chittorgarh, a few hours south of where Faizuddin’s friends died, a bolt struck a tower and sent a huge chunk of stone plummeting to the ground.

The site was fitted with a rod to draw lightning away from the centuries-old structure “but it proved to be ineffective,” said Ratan Jitarwal, a conservator supervising the fort’s painstaking repair work.Lightning is also becoming more frequent, with nearly 19 million recorded strikes in the 12 months to March — up by a third from the previous year. Global warming is driving the increase, says Sanjay Srivastava of the Lightning Resilient India Campaign, one of the few organisations collecting data on thunderstorms.

“Because of climate change and localised heating of the Earth’s surface, and more moisture, there is a sudden surge of huge lightning,” he said. Indian scientists recently developed a mobile app that seeks to provide real-time warnings about imminent strikes and precautions to be taken. – INDIA TODAY

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