The number of deaths due to lightning strikes reduced by nearly 37 per cent, from 2,800 deaths between April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 to 1,771 during the same period in 2019-20, according to a report published on Thursday by the Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC) — a non-profit organisation that works closely with India Meteorological Department.
The report has pointed out several loopholes in the government’s approach towards the problem while praising certain measures taken by the authorities.
According to the report, lightning-linked fatalities formed 33 per cent of total deaths in natural disasters, according to data for the corresponding period in 2019-20.
Several interventions were behind the decline, the report said, adding that more than 60 per cent of deaths in lightning incidents in 2019-20 were reported from Uttar Pradesh (293), Madhya Pradesh (248), Bihar (221), Odisha (200) and Jharkhand (172). It said Odisha saw over 11.20 lakh lightning strikes but only 200 casualties. “During Cyclone Fani, the state saw more than one lakh intense lightning strikes on May 3 and May 4 in 2019. More than 1.2 million people were evacuated to cyclone shelters. Odisha had zero casualty, mainly due to all 891 cyclone shelters being fitted with Lightning Arresters,” said the report.
Need for scientific approach
Lightning strikes around a fixed period and almost similar geographical locations in similar patterns. The report points out the need to have improved forecasting systems and lightning protection devices in place to avoid casualties. It also stresses the need to notify these fatalities as a disaster in order to have a more comprehensive approach across states.
It states that despite the casualties, the Centre has not notified lightning as a disaster, and suggests several measures to alleviate the problem. “Early lightning warning to farmers, cattle grazers, children and people in open areas is key. Second is implementing a local lightning safety action plan like installing Lightning Protection Devices. It is important to bring out lightning fatalities as a disaster to prevent losses,” the report said.
Col (retired) Sanjay Kumar Srivastava, CROPC Chairperson and Convener of the Lightning Resilient Campaign, said the NDMA has issued comprehensive guidelines for action plans to states, but a large number of losses show that the implementation needs a more “scientific and focused community-centric approach”, besides convergence of various departments. “Lightning being the biggest killer and having severe impact on infrastructure, it is time that lightning is notified as a disaster,” he said.
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