260+ killed by lightning each year

2013-02-13 13:15

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - More than 260 people are killed by lightning in South Africa each year, the SA Weather Service said on Wednesday.

Forecaster Puseletso Mofokeng said these figures were annual averages based on Statistics SA data between 1999 and 2007, when 2 375 lightning related deaths were reported.

He was speaking after two groups of Johannesburg school pupils were struck by lightning this week.

Four 16-year-old Protea Glen Secondary schoolgirls were struck while walking home from school on Monday. One was critically injured.

Nine boys from King Edward VII School, aged between 16 and 18, were pulling the covers over a cricket pitch when a bolt of lightning struck the field on Tuesday afternoon. Two were critically injured.

‘There doesn’t have to be a severe storm’


Mofokeng said it was likely that some deaths went unreported.

"The year with the lowest recorded death rate was 2000, when only about 205 [deaths] were reported."

Most of the lightning fatalities happened in the Eastern Cape, closely followed by KwaZulu-Natal.

Provinces with the second-highest risk were the Free State, Gauteng, and North West.

Mpumalanga and Limpopo had marginally lower lightning risks, while the Northern and Western Cape had low incidences of lightning.

Mofokeng said: "Lightning itself is very dangerous, all the time. There doesn't have to be a severe storm."

If thunder could be heard, even in the distance, it was wise to take precautions, because lightning could strike from a distance.

Mofokeng said there was a common misconception that lightning mainly struck during heavy rain.

"There doesn't have to be rainfall for lightning to strike, and when a storm is past it can still be dangerous."

‘A complex phenomenon’


CBI-electric Professor of Lightning Ian Jandrell, of the Wits High Voltage Laboratory, agreed: "Lightning generally precedes rainfall or comes after the rain."

He said it was "good advice" not to take a bath or shower during storms, but this depended on how well the home was earthed.

Jandrell said he had not visited the areas where the lightning strikes occurred, but was speaking from insights based on the understanding of how lightning works.

"Lightning is a very complex phenomenon."

He said more than 90% of lightning was the negative downward type, which would strike the highest object, but not necessarily at the top.

Less than 5% was positive downward lightning, which could travel down past a skyscraper building to strike the street below.

It was also very unlikely that one would be hit by a direct lightning strike.

"For example, if lightning strikes a tree in a parking area, [someone standing nearby] could be harmed."

‘Avoid flat open areas’

In wet conditions, this "step potential", or the reach of this current, was larger, but Jandrell said the distance was difficult to quantify.

Mofokeng said standing in flat open areas during storms carried risks.

"Lightning will usually go to the highest point. When you are in an open space, you [will be] the first one to be hit, because you will be the highest point."

It was also unwise to run around during a storm.

Golfers should also be aware that the metal in their golf clubs could act as lightning rods.

He advised the public not to swim or take shelter under trees during storms. Mofokeng said certain kinds of trees were more likely to attract lightning than others.

Jandrell said there were many common myths about lightning in South Africa and the rest of the world.

For example, covering mirrors during storms to reduce the likelihood of strikes had no scientific basis.

Several deaths

Similarly, placing car tyres on the roof of one's home would not repel lightning.

At least seven people have been killed by lightning since the beginning of the year.

In the Eastern Cape on Monday, a 17-year-old boy was killed and a 16-year-old girl critically injured when lightning struck them at Msintsane, near Mthatha.

In KwaZulu-Natal, three teenagers were killed while walking home from a tuckshop in KwaChezu, Nkandla, on January 9.

At the time, provincial co-operative governance MEC Nomusa Dube said: "These incidents are getting more severe, and their frequency suggests that extreme and abnormal weather conditions caused by climate change have a lot to do with these tragedies."
- SAPA
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
32 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Climbing the world’s largest stone arch

For the first time ever, a rock climber conquered the biggest stone arch in the world.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
4 exercise excuses and how to beat them
Watch: Insane road bike skills!
Traffic & Train Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

One day only! – 40% off Appliances!

Get 40% off 100’s of appliances at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.