The climate crisis triggers a surge in lightning deaths in India

Three of Faizuddin’s friends were killed by lightning while taking selfies on a 400-year-old fortress in India. His spirit was still traumatized. The climate change there has made fatal attacks more common.

This year, in the western desert state of Rajasthan, dozens of people suffered a similar terrible ending, where deaths caused by thunderstorms were not common in the past.

“I was hit by three lightning, one after another,” Faizuddin said, lying in his humble home in Jaipur, wrapped in a blanket, his voice trembling.

In a storm in July, he and his three childhood friends climbed hundreds of steps to a watchtower on top of Amer Fort. The storm also claimed the lives of eight other people.

“The sound was deafening, and it felt like a huge bomb exploded. My pants and shoes caught fire, and my limbs became stiff and I couldn’t move,” the 21-year-old told AFP. His head was still on fire. There is a deep wound.

According to government data, about 2,500 people die from lightning strikes in India each year, compared to only 45 in the United States.

In a thunderstorm in northeastern Assam, cattle and other animals were often killed or maimed erase A herd of 18 elephants in May.

A woman prays next to the carcass of an elephant. According to forest officials, the elephant died of lightning strikes in the Kundali Reserve in the Nagaon District of Assam. [File: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters]

Thunder and lightning contain up to 1 billion volts of electricity, and when they hit, they can cause huge damage to buildings.

Earlier this year, in another fort in Chittorgarh, a few hours south of Faizuddin’s friend’s death, a bolt struck a tower and smashed a large rock to the ground.

The site is equipped with a pole that can pull lightning away from the centuries-old building, “but it turns out to be ineffective,” Ratan Gitavar, the protector overseeing the fortress’s painstaking restoration work (Ratan Jitarwal) said.

‘Sudden surge’

Lightning has also become More frequent, Recorded nearly 19 million strikes in the 12 months ending in March-an increase of one-third from the previous year.

Sanjay Srivastava of the Lightning Recovery India Movement said that global warming is driving this increase and that this is one of the few organizations that collect data on thunderstorms.

He told AFP: “Due to climate change and local heating of the earth’s surface and more moisture, a huge lightning suddenly appeared.”

This problem is worldwide. This year’s research predicts that the average number of lightning strikes in the Arctic Circle this century may double.

This may cause widespread tundra fires and cause large amounts of carbon stored in permafrost to escape into the atmosphere, thereby exacerbating global warming.

Lightning strikes residential area in eastern city Kolkata [File: Reuters]

There is evidence that lightning strikes are also becoming more common in urban areas-this is particularly worrying in India, where the urban population is expected to increase dramatically in the next few years.

Srivastava said that, for example, if a strike strikes a hospital and causes a short circuit in the intensive care unit used to sustain life support for patients, the result could be catastrophic.

“The Devil Falls from the Sky”

With rising sea levels, increasing frequency of deadly heat waves, and other consequences of climate change, this country of 1.3 billion people is struggling to adapt to the more serious threat of lightning strikes.

Srivastava said that most human deaths in thunderstorms are preventable, but almost no buildings have lightning rods to protect residents.

Forecasting is also tricky, and it is also difficult to warn people that a storm is coming.

Indian scientists recently developed a mobile app designed to provide real-time warnings about impending strikes and precautions to be taken.

However, in a country where only half of the population has access to smartphones, and in rural areas where strikes are more common, the use of this is very limited.

Many people don’t realize the danger and what to do—for example, don’t hide under a tree, and avoid going into an open place in a thunderstorm.

“If we knew that lightning strikes…can be fatal and crippled, we would never allow our son to go out of the house,” said Mohamed Shamim, whose 20-year-old son was killed in the Amer Fort incident.

“He wore a new shirt that day. He just wanted to take some beautiful pictures with his phone. But it felt like some demon fell from the sky and took our son away.”



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