Tamil Nadu

Lightning hazard mapping essential to avert risks: expert

When a thunderstorm activity occurs, the focus is often more on rain that it brings. But lightning could be a threat to life and property too. There is a need to develop lightning hazard mapping to identify regions vulnerable to lightning strikes in the State, note disaster management experts.

On an average, a minimum of 40-45 deaths are caused every year by lightning strikes across the State, going by the data for over three decades compiled by the Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management, Vellore Institute of Technology.

Citing report of National Records Bureau (NCRB), G.P. Ganapathy, professor, Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management, VIT, said lightning strikes have caused nearly 2,181 accidental deaths between 1990 and 2019. In 2019, Tamil Nadu was in 10th place with 57 deaths.

Lightning could often be more dangerous than other natural disasters. It is a sudden high-voltage discharge of electricity that occurs in the atmosphere. It is also discharged from the clouds to the ground. NCRB data revealed that 35.3% of the accidental deaths, which occurred due to natural disasters in 2019, were reported due to lightning strikes and 11.6% of fatalities were caused owing to flood in the country.

“In Tamil Nadu, the number of fatalities soared to 122 in 2009 and 111 in 2015. It has remained above 60 during most of the other years since 1995. There has been considerable loss of cattle and damage to property as well due to lightning strikes,” said Prof. Ganapathy.

It is imperative to understand lightning strikes and incorporate precautionary measures along with flood preparedness during monsoon. Lightning hazards mapping must be done to depict threat of lightning in specific areas and create awareness among people, he added.

The Meteorological Department now provides lightning alerts at short intervals through Damini, a mobile application. S.Balachandran, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai, said the Damini app developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology provides alerts on lightning flash potential within 20-40 km radius. These warnings associated with thunderstorms are provided with satellite-based observations, lightning detector network and numerical weather model predictions. However, predictions for lightning strikes in specific locations need to be enhanced.

The Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management, VIT, suggested that a database on fatalities and damage due to lightning flashes must be compiled for hazards mapping. This would help avert risks and plan protection system and predict aviation hazards and forest fires.

“Mapping of regions prone to lightning flashes and its impact would help district authorities to plan preparedness measures and reduce fatalities and damage. Lightning arresters in buildings will also help reduce the impact,” said Prof. Ganapathy.


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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 7:09:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/lightning-hazard-mapping-essential-to-avert-risks-expert/article34940030.ece

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