21 October 2017

Rwanda: Lightning Kills Family of Three

Photo: Thomas Bresson/Wikipedia
(file photo).

As the rainy season sets in, entities charged with safety have called on the public to be conscious of lightning and also re-echoed extra safety precautions.

Incidents of lightning strikes have been experienced in different parts of the country, with Police recording a number of human and livestock deaths.

In the last two weeks, lightning has claimed 18 people in different parts of the country.

Recent among those was at Gitega Cell, Rurembo Sector in Nyabihu District, where lightning struck and killed a mother and her two children at their home.

The victims were identified as Albertine Nyiransengimana, 28, and her two children James Uwihirwe, 6, and Obed Habineza, 2.

Another incident occurred a day before in Nyarubuye Sector of Kirehe District, where at least four people were pronounced dead after a lightning strike.

On that same day, similar incidents occurred in Karongi District where lightning struck two children who died on the spot.

Other lightning strikes leading to death were reported in Gatsibo, Nyamagabe , Ngororero, Gakenke and Nyamasheke districts.

According to Phillip Habinshuti, the director for response and recovery at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDIMAR), lightning is caused by an electrical discharge of electrons moving fast from one place to another.

These electrons move so fast that they superheat the air around them causing it to glow while thunderstorms are created by strong rising air currents called updrafts forming cumulonimbus clouds.

These updrafts create winds of 50 mph (or more) rising several miles into the air to form cumulonimbus clouds. Warm updrafts and cooler weaker downdrafts create turbulence.

The US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration released a study last year that revealed high risk of thunderbolts in Rwanda.

Modalities set up by government of preventing disaster caused by thunderstorms, rain and windstorms, direct that all buildings "shall have lightning rod."

"People should avoid touching and taking equipment reserved for electricity transmission, such as an umbrella with a pointed metal on top in the event that such equipment are on a higher level than the height of the person carrying them," said Habinshuti.

According to preliminary assessments compiled by MIDIMAR, all incidents reported have consistent conditions of occurrence.

"What is common about the victims of lightning is that they are struck while riding bicycles, standing under trees while its raining, grazing on or farming on steep slopes, or swimming during rain, among others," said Habinshuti.

Police Spokesperson Theos Badege said that incidents of lightning leading to death can be avoided if expert advice is heeded to.

"Anything that affects people's safety if of concern to us as an institution charged with public safety. A single live lost in such avoidable circumstances is regrettable. People should take preventive measures when faced with such situations," said Badege.

He appealed to the public to implement all safety measures given by authorities such as fitting lightning arrestors to stop or minimise accidents.

"Property owners must ensure lightning arresters are fitted in all critical facilities and public buildings such as places of worship and schools," Badege said.

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