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Lightning second leading cause of death in monsoon in Pakistan

December 03, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Lightening during rains and thunderstorms was the second leading cause of deaths during the monsoon rains in 2023 as 41 people died killed throughout the country in lightning strikes following an increase in climate change-related extreme weather events in Pakistan, officials said on Saturday.

“Of the 226 people killed in rain-related incidents across Pakistan till September 30, 2023, around 41 people died in lightning strikes throughout the country while dozens other were injured.

In this picture taken on October 27, 2019 lightening strikes on a building during a thunderstorm.  —AFP File
In this picture taken on October 27, 2019 lightening strikes on a building during a thunderstorm.  —AFP File

Hundreds of livestock were also killed in lightning strikes across Pakistan,” an official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) told The News.

Citing data by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the PMD official said the leading cause of deaths during rains and thunderstorms was collapse of roofs and walls, which killed 96 people while the second leading cause of deaths during rains was lightning strikes.

In the wake of increasing incidents of lightning strikes in Pakistan, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has acquired 25 lightning detection sensors worth US$1 million from China which would be installed throughout the country. PMD officials believe that the Chinese detectors will improve the lightning strike warning capability and prevent loss of human lives and livestock.

Giving details of the lightening incidents, the PMD official said highest number of lightening related deaths were reported from Punjab where 19 people were killed in lightening strikes including 10 in Narowal, 5 in Sialkot, and two each in Sheikhupura and Lahore this year.

Similarly, 12 people were killed in Sindh due to lightening strikes including five in Badin, 4 in Tharparkar, and one each in Shikarpur, Tando Allahyar and Mirpurkhas districts.

Five people were killed because of lightening incidents including two in Lower Kohistan and one each in Mansehra, Shangla and South Waziristan.

Three people were killed in Balochistan due to lightening strikes including one each in Dera Murad Jamali, Khuzdar and Kharan, the PMD official added. Two people, one each in Gilgit Baltistan and Kotli district of Azad Kashmir were also killed due to lightening strikes during rains, he added.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Director General Mahr Sahibzad Khan had earlier said this week that the frequency of lightening incidents had increased across Pakistan, which resulted in loss of precious lives and livestock, compelling them to acquire Chinese detectors to help improve their lightning warning capability.

The cost of all lightning systems is around $1 million but it is being provided free of cost, the PMD DG said, adding that Chinese engineers were also helping the department in their installation and upgradation. Sahibzad Khan said they were also acquiring a long-range lightning detector from China in the coming weeks, to predict such incidents up to 1,400 kilometres. They would cover entire Pakistan and help generate timely warnings.

In July this year, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, provided a 3-D lightning detection system to the Pakistan Meteorological Department for enhancing its lightening warning capability. It was successfully tested at the PMD head office and data transmission was established with the cloud server. It shows real-time lightning data including the location of lightning, its intensity, and spatial distribution.