28 June-4 July 2013 #662

If it roars, go indoors

If you find yourself outdoors during a thunderstorm, you should immediately take shelter indoors
Dhanvantari by Buddha Basnyat, MD

MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
According to Hindu mythology Indra, the god of rain and thunderstorms, hurls thunderbolts at earth to display his vanity. But for mere mortals, flashes of lightnings often lead to loss of life and destruction of property.

Last week, three school children in Bara died after being hit by lightning. There have been more than 50 lightning related deaths this year already and as heavy monsoon continues to sweep over the country, the toll is likely to cross last year’s estimate of 130.

The primary cause of fatalities during lightning is not burn injuries, but rather heart or respiratory problems. And while 90 per cent of those affected manage to escape alive, many are left with lifelong disabilities. In Nepal a lot of superstition surrounds this natural phenomenon and awareness among the general public is largely missing.

Being alert of the following information is crucial for keeping oneself out of harm’s way. If you find yourself outdoors during a thunderstorm, you should immediately take shelter indoors. Houses with properly earthed plumbing and wiring systems are the safest hideouts.

Fully enclosed solid metal-topped buses or cars are also amazingly good options. Electrical current travels along the outside of the vehicle’s body, which acts as a metal conductor, and dissipates through the rain water to the ground or flashes off the axles or bumper.

If people don’t have an option of seeking shelter indoors, there is little that can be done to decrease the risk of injury. Taking shade under trees or remaining in open fields is extremely dangerous.

Sitting on backpacks or sleeping pads won’t help. A common misconception among many is that if they are swimming or kayaking in the river, they are safe since they are already in water. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

On the other hand, cell phones and other electronic devices do not attract lightning so there is no need to fear gadgets. More importantly, don’t hesitate to lend a hand to victims: they do not carry ‘electrical charge’ and are absolutely safe to touch.

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