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How to avoid being a lightning strike victim

Senior forecaster at the SA Weather Service Puseletso Mofokeng says in terms of natural disasters, lightning is the number one killer in the country.

Picture: stock.xchng

JOHANNESBURG - Following the latest lightning strike in which four people were killed in the Northern Cape, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has issued safety precautions to follow before and during a thunderstorm.

On Tuesday, four people died in after they were struck by lightning in an open field in the Northern Cape.

It’s understood that the two males and two females were working on a farm in Louisvale when a thunderstorm hit the area.

Last week, a rowing coach died after he was struck by lightning at the Germiston Lake in the East Rand.

Senior forecaster at SAWS Puseletso Mofokeng says that in terms of natural disasters, lightning is the number one killer in the country.

He said: “It is normally not advisable to stand under a tree. We advise people to not run when there is lightning, or walk or stand under power lines.

“When a thunderstorm is approaching, even if it hasn’t started raining yet, that lightning is dangerous because it can get to you.”

Mofokeng added that provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Free State have high numbers of people being killed by lightning.

“Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga have the recorded lower deaths over in terms of lightning strikes. The Northern Cape carries a low number of deaths.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID:

• Don’t stand under a tree
• Don’t run or jog during a storm
• Don’t walk or stand under powerlines
• Get inside as soon as possible
• Avoid tents and pavillions
• If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible.

Speaking of shelter, as much as it’s safe to be indoors during a storm, there are certain things not to do.

WHAT NOT TO DO INDOORS:

• Don’t wash dishes
• Don’t bath or shower; water is an excellent conductor of electricity
• If you are in a vehicle, stay in it.
• You can unplug appliances to minimise strikes
• Stay away from concrete floors or walls.
• Avoid corded phones.

In addition to the obvious warning of a darkening sky, there are certain conditions that can alert you to a lightning before the strikes threaten. You are in a 'danger zone' and need to seek immediate shelter if you experience any of the following:

• Raindrops or hail
• Audible thunder or visible flashes
• Large, towering clouds

Lightning strikes may be rare, but they still happen and the risk of serious injury or death is severe. So take thunderstorms seriously.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntasbo)

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