Lightning Strikes Have Killed 62 in Myanmar This Year

By San Yamin Aung 9 June 2020

YANGON—Lightning strikes killed a total of 62 people in Myanmar between Jan. 1 and June 6, according to a warning from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR) about the dangers of the deadly weather phenomena.

Lightning strikes occur especially often in Myanmar during the pre-monsoon season, from mid-May to the end of June, and the late monsoon season, from September to mid-October.

Lightning strikes are among the deadliest natural disasters in Myanmar, after floods and landslides, and have killed around a hundred people annually in recent years. Fatalities from lightning are generally higher than from earthquakes and storms, and in some years, even higher than from floods and landslides, despite the fact that lightning strikes are less destructive than other disasters.

According to the MSWRR, 133 people died and 52 were injured from lightning strikes in 2019. This year, 54 incidents have claimed 62 lives and injured 26 people, according to a director from the Department of Disaster Management, under the MSWRR.

The MSWRR said in a statement released on Monday that while the lightning fatalities included farmers who were working in fields and people walking or working outside in the rain, people staying indoors but using the phone or radio were also killed and injured by lightning.

The ministry urged people to stay indoors, stay away from windows and doors, and avoid touching electrical equipment or cords during storms.

As climate change has made extreme weather more frequent and more intense, lightning strikes have also become the leading cause of weather-related deaths in other countries in the region.

Lightning strikes are considered a type of disaster under Myanmar law. The director of the Department of Disaster Management said the government pays 300,000 kyats (US$214.18) in compensation to the families of victims who are killed and 50,000 kyats to those injured by disasters, including lightning strikes.

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