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Despite the Bangladeshi government’s bid to curtail deaths due to lightning strikes, dozens continue to die every day due to lack of awareness. The increasing sea surface temperature has also given rise to more lightning in the area, where a study has predicted a whopping 50 percent hike in deadly lightning instances by the end of this century.
At least 16 people, including a woman labourer and four minors, died after being struck by lightning in various districts in Bangladesh in a span of 24 hours. The Netrakona, Faridpur, Manikganj, and Kishoreganj districts were among the most affected areas of the country.
Deaths due to lightning have become a common incident in the nation over the past decade, peaking between the pre-monsoon months of April-June. In 2016, 80 people died during a single rainy day.
According to media reports, at least 1,800 people were killed in lightning strikes between 2010 and 2017 in Bangladesh. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Berkeley predicted that lightning strikes are expected to increase by 12 percent for every degree Celsius of warming. Hot air from the Bay of Bengal and colder air descending from the Himalayas collide in the tropical region, causing thunderstorms. The warmer conditions due to climate change are causing more water evaporation from the land and ocean, increasing clouds with potential lightning storms.
In 2015, the Bangladeshi government declared lightning a natural disaster and introduced protection measures to the country’s national disaster management plan and its National Building Code.
The incidents have gravely affected the country’s agriculture sector, which accounts for half of all lightning-related fatalities. Farmers work in open fields, making them more susceptible victims of the natural calamity. In a bid to protect farmers from the strikes, the Sheikh Hasina government has planted over five million palm trees to divert the fall. But the battered farmers have alleged the government is not doing enough, as trees take time to grow.
Apart from deaths, lightning strikes leave survivors with burn scars, hearing loss, and neurological difficulties. Although warnings have been made available, these have not reached all sections of society and a large number of deaths continue due to a lack of awareness.