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Nepal’s lightening threat: The Cause of preventable deaths

Ignorance and lack of knowledge in taking preventive measures against lightning threat is causing irreversible harm to human lives in Nepal.

2022 Jun 12, 10:42, Kathmandu

The monsoon season brings with itself disastrous floods, landslides and thunderstorms in Nepal. This leads to the question whether or not casualties resulting from thunderstorms in Nepal are due to lack of awareness in taking preventive measures.

“Last year more people died due to thunderstorms in Nepal than floods and landslides,” says Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Jwala Pandey. Lightning constitutes the second largest number of deaths caused by natural calamities in the nation, after earthquakes. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs more than 100 people die every year due to thunderstorms in Nepal. Thunderstorm fatality rate in Nepal is the highest in South Asia with the southern part of the country receiving frequent thunderstorms, especially in the monsoon season.

Thunderstorm density in Nepal, is least in the Himalayan region followed by the hilly region and occurs frequently in the southern plains. A research, ‘ Lightning threats in Nepal: occurrence and human impacts’ conducted through the incorporation of recent country data in the year 2021 mentions that the thunderstorm season in Nepal begins in March and ceases by August.

The study reveals that during the monsoon season ( June - August ) thunderstorms are observed at the highest level in Nepal with an average of 468,705 strokes per year. Although thunderstorms are mostly concentrated in the southern region of Nepal, the fatalities in the southern plains are less than half of the hilly region.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management authority of Nepal advises people to remain inside a house, bus or car immediately after thunderstorms are heard. If it is not feasible to go towards such safe shelters moving close to a tall tree is advised to be avoided at all costs. A person who cannot reach safe places in the time of thunderstorms should sit in an open space, closing his or her ears with their hands.

“Besides human casualties, many domestic animals and livestock are also harmed by thunderstorms, but people are less aware of it. I believe the main problem is lack of awareness in both communities and government level,” says Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Jwala Pandey. Pandey is currently working as a consultant for the World Bank.

‘Lightning Fatalities and Injuries in Nepal’ published in the American Meteorological Society Journal in the year 2021, analyses the fatality rates and economic loss caused by thunderstorms in Nepal from the year 1971 to 2019. The research shows that 1.77 deaths per million per year occur in Nepal due to lightning related reasons. Bhaktapur district was found to have the highest fatality rate in the country.

It is recommended by experts that an early warning system be put in place in order to prevent lightning casualties and loss of property in Nepal. “ In the case of floods early warning systems are in place, the meteorological department gives SMS to inhabitants about flood risks in the area, but no such system is in place for thunderstorms yet,” concludes Pandey.


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