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Friday, August 12, 2022

Striking Despair: Lightning claimed 1700-plus lives over 10 yrs in Jharkhand

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Lightning has caused so much destruction in this village as the name Bajarmara suggests, that probably this is the only village in the country where lightning strikes more than 500 times a year.

There is hardly any family in this village, which has not suffered loss of life or property due to lightning. Similarly, an ancient fort located in Pithoria village of Ranchi is also hit by lightning several times every year. This fort, which has collapsed and turned into ruins, belonged to Jagatpal Singh, who was the king of this area about 200 years ago.

Jharkhand is also one of the six states of the country that have been identified as the most sensitive by the India Meteorological Department with regard to the dangers of thunder and lightning. According to the data of the Meteorological Department, there has been 4,39,828 incidents of lightning in Jharkhand in 2021, it was about 4.5 lakh in 2020.

According to the data, Madhya Pradesh reports the highest number of lightning strikes in the entire country. Last year, there were more than 6.5 lakh lightning strikes in Madhya Pradesh, while Chhattisgarh had about 5.7 lakh, Maharashtra 5.4 lakh, Odisha 5.3 lakh and West Bengal more than 5.1 lakh.

Report suggests that the maximum number of lightning occurs during the pre-monsoon period of May-June. This year, so far 28 people have died in Jharkhand due to lightning in the last 20 days. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 1700 deaths due to lightning here. The number of deaths due to lightning in any year since 2011 has not been less than 150. In 2017, the death toll due to lightning was recorded at 300. Similarly, there were 270 deaths in 2016 and 277 in 2018.

Ranchi’s environmentalist and geologist Nitish Priyadarshi points out that small hills, tall trees, swampy areas, high rise buildings in hills and forest make the area more vulnerable for lightning. "Due to being at a higher altitude, in forest and hill areas, especially where there is a sudden change in the height of the land, the vapour particles collide with each other to create a lot of energy, which is attracted towards the mineral land and takes the form of thunder and lightning," he said.

The team of Jyotirmoy Ghosh (principal scientific advisor), Dr Rajan Choudhary (agricultural meteorologist) and Dr Nirmal Kumar from Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums (IINRG), Namkum, Ranchi, has developed a mobile app called ‘Damini’ for lightning alert. Ghosh says that if people are alerted about the incidents of lightning in advance, the loss of life and property can be reduced.

The Jharkhand government has declared lightning as a natural calamity. In order to reduce the damage caused by this, the Disaster Management Department of the State Government has taken several steps. For example, in 2019, the department had made arrangements to alert people through SMS, but this has now failed. Due to the lack of proper network and people not activating location on their smartphones, there is a problem in delivery of SMS.

The department has also installed devices called lightning arresters at places considered vulnerable. Four years ago, lightning conductors were installed at about two dozen places in the Namkum block area of Ranchi.

Scientist Santosh Kumar explains that it is not at all safe to take shelter under a tree during lightning. If there is lightning and you are not able to go to a safe place, then dry things like wood, plastic and sack should be kept under your feet. At the same time, both the feet should be adjacent to each other. Keeping both hands on the knees, tilt your head towards the ground as much as possible, but do not touch the head with the ground or lie on the ground. By doing this you can protect yourself.

–Ajit Weekly News<br> snc/uk/skp/

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