Lightning strikes claim two lives in Bunyoro

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“People have cut down trees which used to absorb or provide a channel for transmission of lightning. Most areas are now covered with shrubs without trees,” Environmental expert.

A 61-year-old woman, Alice Wandera, yesterday (Friday) died instantly after being struck by lightning at Kijumbura Village in Kihaguzi Parish, Labongo Sub-county in Masindi District.

Mr Francis Rugira, from the neighbouring Kihaguzi village says that Wandera met her death at around 2:30pm on her compound heading into her house to shelter against rain that had forced her to retire prematurely from the garden.

Audio: Rugira on lightning bolt (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Mr Charles Oryema, the Kijumbura Village Chairman said the lightning struck immediately after Wandera reached a mango tree in her compound.

Audio: Oryema on lighting bolt (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Meanwhile, last week, a 36-year-old woman also died after being struck by lightning at Toonya Fishing Village on the shore of Lake Albert in Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima District.

Edron Kanyendaki, met her demise as she organised the interior of the family’s new mud and wattle house after being displaced by the ravaging floods of the lake.

Kanyendaki’s children were shifting household items to their new family house while her husband was busy fishing on the lake when lightning struck her at around 8am on Saturday.

Sometime back, 10 youth also died when a bolt of lightning struck them while sheltering in a hut against a thunderstorm that had disrupted them from playing football in Arua City.

Myth and traditional belief about lightning

In Bunyoro, many people peg lightning strikes to witchcraft after one has stolen something.

Thunder and lightning in a scientific perspective

According to veteran meteorologist, Mr Aloysius Kagoro, thunder and lightning are caused when air masses; that is cumulus and cumulus-nimbus clouds; moving in opposite directions generate heat the same way human hands can generate heat when rubbed against each other.

He says the warm air expands in volume and occupies bigger space but rapidly contracts when it encounters cold air adding that the sudden expansion of air causes an explosion which is normally referred to as thunder and when the sound waves are being transmitted, they encounter cold air waves and generate an electric discharge towards the earth (lightning).

Risky areas

Mr Kagoro continues that this electric discharge towards the earth (lightning) that to be managed because it connects to the earth through a high point such as a tree, buildings, human beings and even animals.

A senior meteorologist, Mr Khalid Muwembe, says lightning hits objects that stand tallest in open spaces or someone with an umbrella walking in an open space because the metallic tip of the umbrella easily attracts electric currents.

He advises that it safer to keep indoors whenever it is raining.

Areas around lakes are riskier since the water vapour rises after being heated by sunlight rays to form rain making clouds: cumulus and cumulo-nimbus, says Mr Muwembe adding that lightning strikes are common at the start or end of the rainy season because there is a lot of energy build-up in the air responsible for the sudden movement of air.

The expert says it is unlikely in the middle of the rainy season because the temperatures will have evened out.

Why lightning bolts are common today

Mr Marx Kabi, a natural resource management specialist in the National Forestry Authority (NFA) blames lightning strikes on massive cutting down of trees.

“People have cut down trees which used to absorb or provide a channel for transmission of lightning, says Mr Kabi adding that “most areas are now covered with shrubs without trees”.

Additional reporting by William Kyalisiima

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