Bhubaneswar: Lightning has turned into a major natural calamity in Odisha claiming 1,487 lives in the last three-and-a- half years, said sources in the Special Relief Commissioner’s (SRC) office.
On an average, around 400 people have fallen victim to lightning every year during the period as per data available at the SRC office.
Experts have blamed climate change and sudden changes in weather for frequent deaths due to thunderbolt strikes in the state. According to them, deaths due to lightning have surpassed casualties in other natural calamities like cyclone and flood in recent years.
As many as 399 people fell victim to lightning in the 2015-16 financial year in the state while the figure was 460 in 2017-18. As many as 231 people lost their lives in lightning strikes in the state till September 15 of 2018-19 financial year.
Mayurbhanj topped the list among the 30 districts with 153 people falling victim to lightning in the last three-and-a- half years. The number of deaths due to lightning was 111 in Balasore district, 107 in Keonjhar and 102 in Ganjam during this period.
At least 30 people each have lost their lives due to lightning in 18 districts in the state in the period. It is learnt that natural calamities have claimed a total of 4,689 lives in that period while deaths due to lightning have been estimated at 27 per cent of the total casualties.
According to sources in the SRC, deaths due to lightning are more frequent between May and September with as many as 1,069 casualties in the last three-and-a- half years. Thunderbolt strikes have claimed 17 lives in Bhadrak district and 15 each in Remuna and Jaleswar blocks of Balasore district. Similarly, 15 deaths were reported from Keonjhar block in Keonjhar district during the same period.
This year, as many as 23 deaths due to lightning have been reported from Mayurbhanj district till September 15. The figure was 18 in Keonjhar, 16 in Balasore, 14 in Cuttack, 13 each in Bargarh and Dhenkanal, 12 in Sundargarh, 11 in Bolangir and 10 in Nabarangpur.
Taking the issue seriously, the state government has signed agreements with US-based Earth Network and Thailand-based Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) to provide early information regarding lightning to the people.
According to sources, the two agencies would alert people regarding the possibility of lightning strikes through mobile SMS. The early warning system would be implemented in the state within two years, sources said.
“The state government can check casualties due to lightning through the early warning system and create awareness among the people,” said weather expert Sarat Chandra Sahu.