Lethal lightning kills 18 children in Uganda

Friday 01st Jul 2011 by theWeather Club

A devastating lighting strike has hit a primary school in Uganda, killing 18 children and one teacher. The lightning, which struck just before hometime on Tuesday, is the latest in a spate of lethal strikes that have occurred in the past few weeks thanks to an onslaught of unseasonably heavy rains.

Uganda is well known for its susceptibility to lightning: its capital Kampala has more days of lightning per year than any other city, according to the World Meteorological Organization. But the combination of bad weather, deforestation and a widespread lack of lightning conductors means the number of people killed by the strikes in Uganda exceeds that of almost any other country.

"There are very many schools and brand new health centers which are lacking lightning arrestors," Musa Ecweru, the Uganda's Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, told the BBC. Private newspaper the Daily Monitor reported up to 28 people as having been killed by lightning in the past week, and on Monday the scale of the fatalities led to the issue being debated in the Ugandan parliament.

Yet while local meteorologists have criticized the government for not providing enough lightning conductors for buildings in storm hot spots the Uganda's National Forestry Authority (UNFA) said the felling of trees was also to blame for the strikes.

"People have cut down trees, which used to absorb or provide a channel for the transmission of lightning," said Marx Kabi, a natural resource management specialist. "Most areas are now just covered with shrubs."

In his statement Musa Ecweru assured people the government would work with relevant sectors to make sure the lightening issue was addressed. However he did add that it was "unfortunate that this is going to happen after we lost people."