11 November 2012

Uganda: 'Miraculous' Ice Block Drops From 'Clear Skies' in Pallisa

Pallisa — Mid last week, a mysterious ice block fell from the heavens, making a thunderous sound as it tore through the air.

The object, weighing about 15kg, landed on Nathan Onyangin's kitchen in Okwi village in Apopong sub-county, Pallisa district, at about 1:00pm on Wednesday afternoon.

It broke one wall of the mud-and-wattle kitchen and killed one goat instantly. Before it happened, the sky had been clear, with no sign of rain.

"I survived narrowly. I had just moved from the kitchen to the main house when it happened. I heard a rare thunder-like sound which caused chickens and goats to make noise," Onyangin's wife, Stella Apule, who was preparing lunch before the disaster struck says.

Moments later, startled villagers rushed to Onyangin's homestead to witness the 'miracle'.

Within hours, hundreds of people from at least four sub-counties had come to the homestead waiting to see what would happen next, but they left one by one as there was no other spectacle.

Initially, they hesitated to touch the object, fearing it might burst. They thought Al-Shabaab had struck.

"The deputy RDC told us that terrorists do not attack only towns. He told us to be cautious," said Harriet Nakecho, 31, a neighbour.

Eventually, the LC1 vice chairperson, Paul Ochan, gathered some courage, put the block in a bucket and took it to the sub-county offices, but was turned back.

As the block melted into water, villagers scrambling for it, believing it could heal chronic diseases.

Before long, Ochan was left with less than half a litre out of nearly a bucketful. Onyangin is now planning for a day of prayer to cleanse his homestead.

Scientists explained that the fall of such an ice block is extremely rare but not supernatural. One of the ice blocks that would normally have split up to form hailstones, could have missed a step and instead descended to earth in once piece.

Deus Bamanya, a principal meteorologist in Kampala, explained that rain originates as ice blocks up in the clouds.

As the blocks come down, they encounter warm air and melt before they reach the earth.

If the air is not so warm up there, then the melting process is not complete and you get hail storms. In very rare situations, such a big ice block can reach the earth.

This is more common around Fort Portal in western Uganda and Kericho in western Kenya due to the hilly terrain.

"The force of the ice can be very strong and that is why air crafts avoid such areas," Bamanya said.

Pallisa: Brief

  • Located approximately 65 kilometres (40 miles), by road, west of Mbale, the largest city in the sub-region
  • The town of Pallisa lies in a rural area with extremely limited public transportation
  • The town has a population of about 30,000, scattered across the surrounding area
  • Pallisa is the sister city of Hudson, New York
  • The 2002 national census estimated the population of the town at 23,650
  • In 2008, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), estimated the population of the town of Pallisa to be 29,000
  • In 2011, UBOS estimated the mid-year population of the town at 32,300

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