• Death by lightning


    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    I am getting the impression that deaths by lightning are up. We are in that time of the year when thunderstorms are common, with people risk being hit by lightning, especially when they are out in the open.

    Fishermen are particularly vulnerable because they are in open spaces, and on the water, which attracts lightning.

    I am reading about fishermen from Northern Luzon to Rizal province, down to Mindanao, being struck by lightning. Like fishermen, agricultural workers are vulnerable.

    Just this week, a farmer in Ilocos Norte, working on a rice field, died after getting struck. A week ago, an OFW, who was on vacation, was struck dead whil visiting his old rice field. His fiancée, who was waiting for him on a tricycle, was spared.

    I think NDDMC should educate the public, through schools, agricultural and fisher folk groups, about the dangers of lightning and give instructions about the proper precautions to take if caught out in the open during a thunderstorm.

    Golfers are equally at risk, if not more so. Many golf courses take the precaution to sound a siren indicating that play must be halted and golfers must retire to the golf houses on the fairway or the clubhouse itself. Golf carts are to be avoided because with their open sided metal vehicles they attract lightning. Fortunately, there are lightning arresters in most golf courses too because the danger of lightning is ingrained among golfers from tragic incidents in the past.

    One bizarre lightning death recently was of a woman who was sitting on her bed in her house. She had windows open on each side of the room during a ightning storm and the lightning bolt came through one window and out the other striking her dead in the process. Lightning hits inside homes is not unkown. I was in the US one summer and heard how a person lying in bed (with an open window) died when lightning struck the iron bed.

    As part of any golf cart instruction will show, when in a thunderstorm avoid open spaces, specially trees in open spaces. Keep away from metal fences, metal equipment (golf clubs, steel spikes formerly used in golf shoes, the golf cart itself). When you hear thunder, lightning is not far behind even if you do not see it. Don’t wait to see the flash, seek shelter.

    If for some reason it is too late and you are out in the open during a thunderstorm that has lightning flashing down to the ground around you, prostrate yourself prone on the ground, or go to some lower ground like a ravine (hopefully without a body of water). In a golf course, lie down in a sandtrap that is a hole in the ground.

    I am known on the golf course as a coward because at the first sign of thunder, I leave, refuse to touch my clubs, or use an umbrella. I just go as fast as I can to shelter (without open windows). I have been on a plane struck by lightning. It shuddered violently, I saw flames and the sound system came on in earplitting decibels with some inane music. I survived but we all could not eat the meal cheerfully served after it was all over, a matter of seconds. I was also not too far away when a tree was hit at the old Assumption in Herran years ago. The ground seemed to heave up. It felt like we were being bombed. I survived that. But as you can see I have a healthy fear of lightning and I think many of us do not from the casualties that we get every year.



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