KZN tackles lightning corridor in a bid to save lives

2016-11-20 06:00
Officials install a lightning mast at eMaswazini, where a family of seven was wiped out by a single strike, to prevent deadly lightning strikes this rainy season.

Officials install a lightning mast at eMaswazini, where a family of seven was wiped out by a single strike, to prevent deadly lightning strikes this rainy season.

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While the arrival of the summer rains brings smiles to rural farming communities in KwaZulu-Natal, it brings fear to some families as lightning strikes during thunderstorms result in casualties.

Villagers living along the lightning corridor from the Drakensberg to Zululand have been living in fear of losing their loved ones, but now the province’s local government has begun a programme of installing high-mast lightning conductors at schools, clinics, halls and other public spaces in a bid to stop deaths caused by lightning strikes, as well as the accompanying fires.

The department is also educating communities about the importance of installing the conductors – which cost between R1 000 and R2 000 per unit – as well as how best to minimise the risk of being struck by lightning in prone areas during summer storms.

Over the past two weeks, lighting strikes have claimed four lives in Ezimbambaleni near Nongoma in Zululand. Snethemba Gina (19) and her 12-year-old brother Thembelani were burnt to death after their home was hit by lightning. They and their father, Mbhekeleni (53), were in one of the family’s rondavels when the strike happened during the heavy rains that hit Nongoma, eDumbe and other parts of Zululand last weekend.

On Wednesday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube visited the family, while a team from the department installed a lightning mast at their home to prevent further tragedy.

Dube-Ncube said that they would step up the introduction of communal lighting rods in public spaces to prevent the recurrence of annual strikes, which disrupted Christmas prayers and public gatherings.

“Our roll-out is limited in scope to public areas and to special cases, but we urge communities to invest in these rods for their personal protection,” she said.

Last month, she visited Bergville in the Okhahlamba Local Municipality in the Drakensberg to educate the community about lightning strikes, which have claimed 30 lives in the past five years.

Her spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said masts that protected a radius of up to 100m were also installed in eMaswazini, where a family of seven was wiped out by a single strike.

“Lightning is a natural phenomenon. The approach is that we are putting up rods and focusing on schools, clinics and spaces where people gather in numbers,” he said.

Read more on:    durban

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