Lightning: Let’s stay safe

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EDITOR – ZIMBABWE is experiencing summer rains, most of which are accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning. 

During the rain season, lightning kills several people and even animals.

We are at the onset of the rain season and we have already witnessed many fatalities.

On November 19 2021, 13 inmates at Hwange Prison in Matabeleland North Province were hospitalised after being struck by lightning while having lunch in the prison yard.

On the same day, two teenage girls, both aged 15, were killed by lightning while walking home from school in Chitungwiza.

Recently, the country’s meteorological services department issued a statement warning people to watch out for lightning and strong winds accompanied by heavy downpours in some parts of the country: “Moisture is drifting into the country from Botswana through Matabeleland North and South provinces. 

This, coupled with high temperatures over much of the country should result in thunderstorms which may be violent in some places (coupled with strong winds, lightning hail and heavy rains in some places). 

This is normal for the first time of the year, especially in a season which is expected to have normal to above normal rains.” 

In 1975, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded the most people killed by a single bolt of lightning were found in Zimbabwe, where 21 people were killed while sheltering in a hut in the Eastern Highlands on December 23 1975. 

The high lightning toll in Zimbabwe has been attributed to the effects of deforestation as the cutting down of trees has resulted in huts and people being the tallest objects left around. 

Lightning is known to strike the tallest object in a place.

In urban areas, it is usually those who get struck while seeking shelter from the rain under tall trees.

The most vulnerable subjects for lightning strikes are individuals who work and play in open fields. 

In African Traditional Religion, there has been a general misconception of how lightning occurs in Zimbabwe, with some having a traditional belief that witches and wizards create or cause lightning which they use to kill or harm their enemies.

It is important to dispel such myths as they are precautions that can be implemented to stop the unnecessary loss of lives.

Always avoid contact with plumbing equipment, including bathtubs, sinks and faucets.

Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off entrances and doorways

Keep away from computers, chorded phones and any electrical equipment

Do not seek shelter under trees; if no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground.

Stay away from water.

Let us all stay safe!

Elizabeth Sitotombe, 

Harare.

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