Odisha lost 213 human lives due to lightning strikes, the highest in the country in 2021 year, according to a report compiled by the Climate Research and Services (CSR) of the Indian Meteorological Department.
The thunderstorms and lighting claimed 780 lives from different parts of the country. Among these, the significant reported deaths were 213 from Odisha, 156 from Madhya Pradesh, 89 from Bihar, 76 from Maharashtra, 58 from West Bengal, 54 from Jharkhand, 49 from Uttar Pradesh & 48 from Rajasthan, the report stated.
“The other events like snowfall, cold wave, dust storm, gale, and hailstorm also affected different parts of the country including loss of life, injury, loss of livestock & damage to crops & property.
In 2021, five tropical cyclones formed over the north Indian Ocean with three forming over the Bay of Bengal and 2 forming over the Arabian Sea. In addition to these, extreme weather events like extremely heavy rainfall leading to floods, landslides, lightning, thunderstorm, droughts, etc were also experienced in various parts of the country”, CSR of IMD informed in an official statement.
The lightning deaths in Odisha have considerably dropped over the years as the State government has initiated several steps including launching an SMS alert message dissemination system and installing state-of-the-art lighting alert systems in vulnerable pockets of the State, said an official of the revenue and disaster management department.
While 472 perished in lightning strikes in 2017-18, 340 persons died in 2018-19. In the 2019-20 years, 357 lightning fatalities were recorded followed by 274 deaths in 2020-21. Therefore, the lightning fatalities have substantially dipped in the State.
The State Government has signed an MoU with Earth Networks and has installed lightning detection sensors at 8 locations in Keonjhar, Balangir, Berhampur, Jeypore, Rourkela, Bhubaneswar, and Panikoili to receive an early warning on possible lightning strikes, the revenue and disaster management official said.
Lightning was declared as a State-specific disaster on April 1, 2015. As per the revised norms, Rs 4 lakh per deceased is now being paid by the government as ex-gratia towards lightning victims’ families. Prior to 2015, ex-gratia was either being paid from the chief minister’s relief fund or district gratuitous relief fund.
The State has also launched a drive to undertake plantation of palm trees along with the vacant roadside patches and forest-bordering areas as these tree species act as protective barriers against lightning during thunderstorms.
Thanks to improved early-warning infrastructure mechanisms and increased public awareness, the scourge of lightning fatalities have registered a sharp downward trend in the Eastern State.
The majority of victims are rural (96%) which include farmers, women, and children. They have been found to be vulnerable because of working in the open. There are 71% of people who are struck by lightning due to standing under trees during rains, thunderstorms, or lightning, added officials.