Lightning strikes claim lives in east Nepal every yearTwo persons died in lightning incidents in the past three weeks, according to the District Police Office, Taplejung.
Sixty-year-old Shree Prasad Kadariya of Mehele in Sidingwa Rural Municipality Ward 6, Taplejung, died after being struck by lightning on Friday evening. He was hit by a lightning strike as he stepped out of the kitchen after dinner. According to Man Bahadur Rai, the rural municipality chief, the victim died a few minutes later while they were preparing to take him to a hospital.
On Wednesday night, a 10-year-old boy, of Sanghu in Maiwakhola Rural Municipality Ward 4 died after being hit by a lightning strike. His parents sustained injuries in the incident. “The boy’s father Darinjen Sherpa and mother Nima Lhamu Sherpa were rushed to the district hospital after the incident. They returned home after treatment,” said Bijaya Prakash Banem, rural municipality chairman of Maiwakhola Rural Municipality.
In the neighbouring Panchthar district, a lightning strike killed 60 sheep at a farm in Phalelung Rural Municipality Ward 3 on Friday evening. Police said Prem Rai, the caretaker of the sheep farm, sustained serious injuries in the incident. Rai, a permanent resident of Yangbarak Rural Municipality Ward 3, was rushed to Phalelung Police Post for treatment. Six sheep were injured in the incident.
Lightning strikes take their toll in the eastern hills of Nepal every year but such incidents go unchecked causing a huge loss of lives and properties mainly due to a lack of awareness and disaster preparedness.
Gopal Bista of Phawakhola in Taplejung’s Phungling Municipality Ward 11 sustained critical injuries after he was hit by lightning in his animal shed a month ago. He regained consciousness after two days. “I still have pain and uneasiness in the right part of my body,” said Bista, who returned home after receiving treatment at the district hospital for a week.
As per the data made available by the District Police Office in Taplejung, two persons died in lightning incidents in the past three weeks. Police Inspector Kushram Karki, who is also the spokesman of the district police office, said lightning strikes killed two persons in the last fiscal year as well.
Lightning strikes incur a huge loss of lives and properties in Taplejung every year. However, the district administration, the district police office and the local units do not have detailed data on the damage caused by the phenomena. “Many incidents of lightning are not reported to the police thinking that it will take both time and money to bring the deceased to the district headquarters for postmortem. We try to keep a record of the incidents as much as we can,” said Karki.
Eastern hill districts of Koshi Province including Taplejung, Panchthar, Okhaldhunga, Tehrathum, Ilam, Sankhuwasabha are hardest hit by lightning.
The local people feel insecure as lightning hits homes as well. “People say we should stay indoors during thunderstorms and lightning to be safe, but my mother-in-law died last year after being struck by lightning while she was at home,” said Kamala Rajbhandari of Phungling Ward 4. According to her, the lightning struck her mother-in-law while she was in the kitchen. “We rushed her to the district hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival,” said Rajbhandari.
People who own or work at electronic shops and FM stations often close their businesses when clouds start hovering in the sky. Devices connected to telephone and internet are especially susceptible to lightning damage “We often close the FM station when the sky thunders with flashes of light. We don’t know when the lightning will destroy the FM station,” said Devraj Gurung, the station manager of Taplejung FM. According to him, lightning damages various equipment at the FM station every year.
Lightning is one of the deadliest natural disasters in Nepal. Every year, several dozens of people are killed by lightning strikes, mainly during the pre-monsoon season.