For months people of India have been waiting for the monsoon to grace them and act as a relief from the insanely hot weather. When northern India finally received showers after a delayed monsoon, it wasn’t good news for all. On Sunday, lightning strikes and thunderstorms killed at least 65 people in the northern Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
What’s happened in India?
After lightning struck Amer Fort, a renowned tourist attraction on the outskirts of Jaipur, Rajasthan, 23 people perished. They had gone up there to enjoy the cool weather after months of heat.
"There was a tower there. When the lightning struck, the tower's wall collapsed, many people were buried under lb it. Since the fort is on a hill when the debris was falling and space reduced, some people also fell into a ditch," Shankar Lal Saini, a senior disaster management official in Jaipur told CNN.
According to Saini, the event occurred at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, with rescue operations continuing until 7 a.m. on Monday. Among the dead discovered were women and children. When the victims arrived at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in the city, they were pronounced dead.
According to local media sources, nine additional people were killed by lightning strikes on Sunday in Rajasthan, where Jaipur is located.
According to state disaster management official Aditi Umrao, 42 persons were killed in lightning strikes and thunderstorm-related incidents in Uttar Pradesh.
In Madhya Pradesh, at least seven people perished. According to experts, the two states have a high incidence of fatalities because a huge number of people work outdoors in agriculture and construction.
Compensation for the relatives of those who died has been announced by the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, as well as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a tweet on Sunday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot asked officials to provide prompt aid to the relatives of the deceased.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his sympathies on Twitter on Monday, and the government stated that victims' families would receive ₹2 Lakh in compensation. Those who were harmed but survived the blows would receive ₹50,000 in compensation.
What is lightning?
Lightning is an "electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground," according to National Geographic. Storm clouds and objects on the ground create an "imbalance" because the lowest regions of the storm clouds are "negatively" charged while objects on the ground are "positively" charged. This imbalance allows current to flow between the two opposing charges.
To put it simply, imagine lightning to be electricity. This electricity is made of tiny particles. Some of these particles are positively charged and some are negatively charged. On a normal day, the two opposite charges pull towards each other, like opposite poles of a magnet. Generally, these two opposites balance each other out and are stable.
However, when there is a storm, its strong winds tend to separate the charges within the cloud. The negative particles settle at the bottom and the positive ones stay on top. Most lightning will take place in the cloud itself. A stepped leader is a lightning strike that begins with negative charges flowing from the clouds to the ground. Meanwhile, as positive charges rise from the ground, usually from tall objects, an upward leader arises. When a stepping leader and an upward leader meet, a much larger and brighter electric current shoots up into the cloud, which is what we see as light in the sky.
How common is death by lightning strikes?
It is more common than is sometimes realized. On average, 2,000-2,500 people are killed by lightning in India each year. The most common cause of accidental deaths due to natural causes is lightning.
Do’s and Don’ts during a lightning strike
1. If thunderstorms are expected, cancel or postpone your activities.
2. Avoid wide fields, the summit of a hill, or the top of a ridge. Lightning looks for the lowest resistance path to earth. Therefore you want to reduce the chances of your body being a possible low resistance path to earth. If you are in a wide field and are standing tall, it is likely that the lightning will strike you first, in order to reach the ground. The same stands for a hilltop.
3. Keep a safe distance from tall, isolated trees or other tall structures. Stay near shorter trees if you're in an area with trees. Again, the same logic, as the previous point is applied here. Lightning is most likely to strike on a taller building or trees. If you seek shelter near them there is a higher chance of the electricity passing onto you.
4. When thunderclaps, get to a safe shelter as soon as possible and stay away from metal structures and constructions with metal sheets. Pukka dwellings, pukka buildings, or hard-top automobiles with the windows rolled up are all safe havens. Pukka housing refers to structures that are built to be robust and long-lasting. This term refers to structures made of substantial materials like stone, brick, cement, concrete, or wood.
5. Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend all outdoor activities for 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap.
6. Instead of lying flat on the ground, get into a “lightning crotch” position. Squat, wrap arms over legs, keep feet together, head dropped, ears covered, and eyes closed in this position.
7. Spread out if you're in a group to avoid the current traveling between people.
8. Keep a safe distance from water, wet goods like ropes, and metal objects like fences and poles. Although water and metal do not attract lightning, they are great electrical conductors. The current generated by a lightning strike can easily travel through them.
9. Avoid outside windows and doors with metal components that lead from the outside to the inside of your property. Keep your distance from balconies, porches, and open garages or carports. You should try to stay indoors and away from metal during a thunderstorm.
10. Lightning strikes are especially dangerous to dogs tethered to trees or on metal runners. This is because lightning is most likely to strike a tree which can then travel through your pet. Also, metal is a good conductor of electricity, which makes it unsafe during a thunderstorm. Ensure you keep your pet indoors to avoid lightning striking them.
11. In case you are outside and are unable to find any shelter other than your car, get in. It’s safer to be in your car than out in the open. However, if it is possible for you to find some permanent shelter, that’s the way to go.
12.At the time of Thunder and Lighting, switch off rather plug out all the electronic devices, in case there is a serge in the electricity, this will protect your electronics. Consider installing surge-protected devices(SPD) on electrical equipment. These systems provide considerable protection for electronic devices during a lightning strike and even regular (if any) electric surge. This is due to the fact that lightning can strike electrical and phone lines, causing shocks or surges.
13. Install a lightning protection system. They include lightning rods and air terminals. In case lightning were to strike your house, they would give it a direct path to the ground, instead of through your house. This, however, will not protect your house from fire or electrical damage. A whole-house surge protective device is needed for this. This can be installed in the electric meter which will protect all your devices from damage.
Myths and Facts
There are various myths surrounding lightning, but these are merely myths. In order to stay safe during a thunderstorm, we must know what the facts are. Here are some of the most common myths related to lightning strikes.
Lightning never strikes the same spot twice, according to legend.
Lightning can, and frequently does strike the same spot multiple times, particularly if it's a tall, sharp, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit about 25 times each year on average.
A car's rubber tires shield you from lightning by isolating you from the ground.
Most cars are safe against lightning, but the metal top and sides, not the rubber tires, protect you. Convertibles, motorbikes, bicycles, outdoor leisure vehicles, and cars with fiberglass shells do not provide lightning protection.
A lightning victim is electrified. You'll get electrocuted if you touch them.
When someone is struck by lightning, electricity passes through them, but they are not electrically charged. Someone who has been struck by lightning can be safely handled right away. Another risk of electrocution when assisting someone who has already been struck by lightning is the possibility of another lightning strike.
If you're outside during a thunderstorm, take cover under a tree to stay dry.
Standing under a tree during a thunderstorm is one of the dumbest things you can do. It is the second leading reason for deaths due to lightning. Get into a place with four walls to be safe.
Lightning is most likely to strike a dark object.
Lightning has no regard for the color of the objects it strikes. It's merely looking for the most conductive path from the cloud to the ground, like all electrical currents. There is no concern for color.
If it is not raining and the skies are clear, lightning cannot strike.
This is not the case. Do not wait until a thunderstorm appears overhead and rain starts to fall. Even if the sky above you is clear, if you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an imminent threat. If thunder claps, seek shelter as soon as possible.
Lightning strikes are shielded by rain cover structures such as tents, overhangs, and many other shelters that stop the rain.
They won't keep you safe from lightning strikes. A shelter with four walls and a roof, or a car, is the safest place to be.