BANGLADESH has seen a near-record number of deaths in 2016 from lightening strikes, which are becoming more frequent with climate change.
So far this year, 261 people have died from lightning in the country, putting the south Asian nation on track to beat 2015’s 265 deaths. Most lightning deaths usually occur during the warm months of March to July.
The problem has prompted Bangladesh’s government to add lightning strikes to the country’s list of official types of disasters, which includes floods, cyclones and storm surges, earthquakes, drought and riverbank erosion, among others.
As a result, the government now compensates lightning strike victims or their families with a sum between 7,500 and 25,000 taka (£71-£230). Through mid-May the government had paid 1.5 million taka ($13,780) in claims this year to families of 81 people who died because of lightning.
During the three-day period of May 12 to May 14, 67 people died from lightning strikes in Bangladesh. Altogether, 132 people died in May after being hit by lightning, according to the Foundation for Disaster Forum, a Dhaka-based disaster preparedness network.
Altogether, 1,476 people have died from lightning in Bangladesh since 2010, Bangladesh Meteorological Department data shows.
Experts say the rise in fatal lightning strikes may also be related to the country’s population growth and to deforestation, which has led to the disappearance of many tall trees that earlier would have drawn lightning strikes.
Now fatalities often involve farmers using metal farm equipment in open fields, or people standing near metal cell phone towers or electrical power towers, experts said.
Some blamed cell phone use itself but many experts said that link is unlikely.